Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Hadley water quality investigation continues, storage tank divers hired

Divers from Underwater Solutions Inc. of Mattapoisett are scheduled to begin cleaning out the town’s water tanks on Mount Warner and Hockanum roads next week. The crew will inspect the interior of the tanks and remove any so-called bio-film that may be present on the walls of the tanks. The divers also will take interior photographs and submit a report on their findings, according to an approximately $8,200 contract with Hadley’s water division.

Meantime, the town continues to chlorinate the water under a consent order with the state Department of Environmental Protection. The order to disinfect the town’s water supply came after coliform bacteria levels were reported in water-quality tests during three of the past six months. Coliform is not dangerous itself, but is an indication that other potentially harmful bacteria may be present in the town’s water supply. There has been no detection of E. coli, which would be of greater concern, according to the DEP.

Department of Public Works Director Gary E. Girouard said water division employees are vigilantly testing the water supply as required under law and also for residual chlorine levels. Town officials have been fielding occasional calls from residents about the water since the chlorination began less than two weeks ago.

“In house, on a day-to-day basis, we’re testing for residual chlorine,” Girouard said. “It will be the weakest at the farthest end of the system. It’s well under control.”

The town’s water division routinely collects 10 water samples monthly for lab testing and those samples should no longer have any bacteria present because of the chlorination occurring at the water treatment plant on Bay Road, he said.

“Nothing yesterday,” Girouard said Thursday of the latest lab results.

Under the consent order, the town must submit a report to the DEP by July 19 detailing the likely cause of the bacteria and the town’s plan for preventing further water quality violations. In addition to bringing in the tank divers, Girouard said he plans to generate a list of water system components and processes that may or may not have played a role in the detected bacteria, as well as review the water division’s pipeline flushing program.

Other potential initiatives he’s exploring are setting up permanent water-quality sampling stations in town and introducing mixing systems in the storage tanks where still water has been suspected of causing the bacteria in the past.

Town Administrator David G. Nixon, who presented an updated master plan for water and wastewater capital improvements to the Select Board last October, said town officials will soon review whether further adjustments need to be made to that plan given the recent water-quality issues.

“I’ve recommended phasing in of water-line replacement with financial considerations so that it’s affordable and effective,” Nixon said. “Maybe the priorities are different now.”

The town first began chlorinating its water in July 2008 under a similar DEP consent order after elevated coliform bacteria levels were detected in December 2005, January 2006, August 2007, October 2007 and June 2008. All the positive tests came from tests of water in North Hadley. The town received permission to stop chlorinating its drinking water, which is drawn from wells, in 2010.

The latest order to chlorinate came after coliform tests came back positive in January, April and then in June, which also included water samples from the north end of town.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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