Two groups of people who set out to cool off Thursday afternoon ended up in hot water.
Police arrested 12 people — all from Danvers or Reading — and towed eight cars from the Klondike and Haskell reservoirs about 1 p.m.
Officers charged each person in the two separate incidents with trespassing and violating the bylaw that bans swimming in the water supply, with Police Chief Leonard Campanello saying it was time to crack down.
“We’ve had a lot of citizen complaints and we’ve had some major concerns from the environmental engineering department on the dangers of people swimming in public drinking supply water,” Campanello said. “It’s culminated in the fact that we found it very necessary to step the enforcement up in this particular area because our requests to comply over the past several months have gone unheeded.”
Campanello said police have tagged vehicles at Gloucester’s reservoirs and quarries with parking tickets, towed vehicles, and warned people about the potential penalties involved in swimming in a public water supply.
Swimming in the reservoirs and quarries violates both state law and a city ordinance, according to Larry Durkin, environmental engineer for Gloucester’s Department of Public Works.
“You can’t control wild animals and what they’re going to do,” Durkin said. But when you add humans to the reservoir mix, he explained, “you’re more likely to get e. coli bacteria into a surface water supply.”
Durkin thanked the police force for backing efforts to keep the Klondike Quarries, the Haskell Reservoir and the Babson Reservoir clean.
“I’m just very happy that the police have been very cooperative in helping us,” Durkin said. “We’re trying to get the message out that we’re trying to protect peoples’ drinking water.”
The city tests the reservoir for bacteria weekly, and the water has tested clean since the infamous boil-water order issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection in August 2009. But people swimming increases the chances at finding issues, Durking said, adding that the thought is simply unappetizing.
“The question is, do you want anyone swimming in your drinking water?” he said. “And I don’t want anyone swimming in my drinking water.”
The Danvers residents arrested include Gregory Tremblay, 21; Nicholas Velonis, 21; and Andrew Vitolo, 21.
The Reading residents arrested include Connor McCarthy, 19; Kelsey McCarthy, 19; Kyle McCarthy, 19; Christopher Shea, 17; Luke Killian, 18; Ian Powers, 19; Kelleigh Matrullo, 19; Matthew Ambrose, 18; and Hansel Rodriguez, 20.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.