Selectmen hear water complaints; urge fast LCWD action

Jun 7, 2018 by

Published in the June 6, 2018 edition


LYNNFIELD — A number of residents expressed their frustrations about discolored water during a joint meeting held by the Board of Selectmen and Lynnfield Center Water District officials on Monday.

The selectmen invited LCWD officials to participate in the joint meeting in the wake of residents living in the Cortland Lane, Apple Hill Lane, Lowell Street and Chestnut Street areas of town experiencing discolored water in their homes. The Al Merritt Center was full of concerned residents.

CDM Smith engineers Elaine Sistare and Angela Moulton gave an overview of the initiatives LCWD is undertaking to address the discolored water issues. Sistare said the firm has worked with the LCWD for “many decades.”

Sistare said the LCWD is required to abide by state and federal regulations.

“They take many samples on a frequent basis,” said Sistare. “Some daily, some weekly and some less frequent. They always meet their state and federal regulations. Does that mean having brown water come out of a tap is a good thing to have? No. We certainly acknowledge that issue.”

Moulton said the LCWD’s system is needed to provide drinking water and fire protection. Moulton said it’s important for the district to maintain the system.

“In response to the discolored water, the district has performed directional flushing,” said Moulton. “As you flush fire hydrants over time, you will see the water become more clear. Directional flushing is recommended by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.”

Moulton said iron and manganese built up on pipe walls have caused the discolored water problems.

“Iron and manganese are minerals and natural deposits found in rocks or soil,” said Moulton. “Over time, this sediment builds up on pipe walls. This is why MassDEP recommends all communities to flush their pipes.”

Moulton explained that the LCWD started its directional flushing program last year and will continue the initiative at least twice a year.

“This is a short-term solution,” said Moulton.

Sistare said the LCWD is looking to build greensand filters at a Glen Drive treatment plant in order to treat iron and manganese. She also said the district is considering supplementing its water supply via the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA).

Additionally, Sistare said the LCWD wants to know if cold water is discolored. She said discolored hot water could be attributed to an “internal plumbing issue.” She said the LCWD will be mailing a water quality report to residents who live in the district next month.

“That will include 2017 results,” said Sistare.

Sistare acknowledged the LCWD can do a better job communicating its initiatives to residents. She said electronic message boards and the CodeRED reverse 911 system will be used to inform residents when directional flushing will take place.

Residents air frustrations

After Sistare and Moulton concluded their presentation, residents were given an opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.

Kevin Prouty, 22 Cortland Ln., inquired if the LCWD has tested discolored water at homes.

Sistare said the district primarily tests water at its Phillips Road treatment plant and other areas in the distribution system.

“I work with other water utilities and their protocol is if you have discolored water, don’t consume it and call them immediately,” said Prouty in response. “I am just curious why it’s different here compared to other places?”

While LCWD Superintendent Ken Burnham said the district has taken cold water samples from taps at homes with discolored water in the past, he said that is an uncommon practice for the district because of internal factors such as issues associated with a home’s pipes or hot water heater.

Cortland Lane resident Ben Lagman said he worked in the water industry for a number of years, including with the MWRA.

“Our cold water and hot water has been discolored many, many times,” said Lagman. “When I moved to Lynnfield 11 years ago, it was much better. It has been terrible the last two years. When I was working with the MWRA, we never had a problem like this. This is terrible.”

Sistare said CDM Smith and LCWD officials “want to solve the problem.”

Peter Volpe, 794 Lowell St., said an independent consultant has advised his family not to drink tap water because of “high copper readings.” He asked what is causing the problem.

Moulton said the LCWD takes samples for lead and copper in 20 locations, which is required by MassDEP. She said lead and copper samples are taken from people’s homes.

Burnham said “deteriorated” copper tubing in the home could have caused the problem. 

“If the filtration system is the solution, what are we supposed to do now?” asked Volpe. “At my house, we are cleaning our fruits and vegetables with bottled water. We are cooking all of our food with bottled water.”

Murphy Way resident Amy Sewyck said she brought a sample of discolored water to a third party laboratory, and said, “We were also told we should not drink it because of high levels of manganese, iron and copper.”

“I have been told by LCWD it’s okay too drink,” said Sewyck.

“So which is it?”

Sistare said she needs more information about the discolored water sample.

Sewyck said the sample was taken from her kitchen sink on April 21 at 9:55 a.m. She said the water was “average temperature” and was brought to a laboratory about a week after collecting the sample.

Sistare said, “Cold water would give a better data point.”

“So that is acceptable then?” said Sewyck in response.

“No I wouldn’t say that,” said Sistare. “The water in the main is from the Lynnfield Center Water District, and that is what we can measure and control. If there is a problem with an individual home plumbing component, we can certainly talk about solutions there.”

Selectman Chris Barrett inquired how frequently the LCWD tests water at homes and in neighborhoods.

Burnham said water sources at the Phillips Road water treatment plant are tested every day. He said distribution points at Lynnfield High School, Huckleberry Hill School, Town Hall, Wakefield Lynnfield Lodge of Elks and Messiah Lutheran Church are tested each week.

“Those samples are taken to a state certified lab, and those results are sent to DEP for analysis,” said Burnham. “We do a multitude of other samples all year long. We take over a 1,000 samples. We are very interested in making sure what we produce is a good quality.”

Burnham said LCWD has taken discolored water samples from homes that have experienced the problem.

Lowell Street resident Erin Denehy said her family has been negatively impacted by discolored water since moving to town a year ago.

“We have had discolored water about twice a week for the past year,” said Denehy. “The first week we moved to town, I went to give my two young children a bath and we had a tub full of brown water. I have spoken with the water department on numerous occasions and have been told the water is safe to drink. I realize that directional flushing is a solution to the problem. We had a sample taken on May 9, which was 10 days after directional flushing. I expected our water would have improved by then, but it has not. We were contacted by the independent laboratory and advised not to drink our water.”

Selectmen weigh in

Selectman Phil Crawford encouraged LCWD officials to test the homes that have experienced discolored water.

“That will give residents some comfort while we are working how to flush this problem out because obviously your directional flushing program is not working the way you thought it was going to work,” said Crawford.

Barrett requested a follow-up discussion on the water problems in the next couple of months. LCWD officials supported Barrett’s proposal.

Selectmen Chairman Dick Dalton said the LCWD needs to do a better job informing residents about initiatives the district is undertaking to solve the problem. He also encouraged LCWD officials to develop an action plan to address the issue.

“I think this takes some immediate action,” said Dalton. “The credibility of the Lynnfield Center Water District is now in question because people have issues and very serious concerns.”

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