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April 1, 2013

City nets $150K in suit over boil order

Netting the city $150,000, Gloucester and the private company that had the contract to manage the municipal water system at the time of the 20-day, 2009 state-mandated boil-water order have reached an out-of-court settlement of cross litigation stemming from the anxiety and anger provoked by that public health emergency.

In addition to the cash settlement with United Water Environment Services Inc., the contractor agreed to release Gloucester from claims of $337,398.83 for direct expenses incurred by United Water, as it was then known, for direct expenses incurred in their response to the 20-day “boil water” saga, triggered when bacteria indicative of impure water were found and the city’s water system kept failing daily tests monitored by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

“The total settlement is valued at $487,398.83 for the city of Gloucester,” Mayor Carolyn Kirk wrote in a memo to the City council, announcing the “mediated settlement.” The settlement was signed March 14.

The troubles began in mid-August 2009 when traces of coliform bacteria were found in multiple samples taken from the water system, then centered at the Babson Water Treatment Plant below the Babson Reservoir on the island.

Coliform itself represented no health risk, but its presence has come to indicate potentially unhealthy conditions. The cause of the presence of the indicative bacteria were difficult to pinpoint, and led to the extended boil water order, and an extended crisis response by United Water, which flew in experts to try to pinpoint the problem..

In briefing the City Council on the settlement, Kirk said, “The silver lining for the city is that since the boil order we have invested $35 million in the water system, and stimulated economic development as a result.”

“Gorton’s, which suffered businesses losses during the boil order, has renewed confidence in the city as evidenced by their recent $20 million expansion in their plant on Gloucester Harbor,” Kirk added. “National Fish, whose business was also disrupted, recently made a $2 million investment in their facility.”

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