, Gloucester, MA


May 24, 2013

Letter: Tackling city's 'musty' water issues

To the editor:

As an outlying coastal community, Gloucester has a unique challenge to modernize infrastructure and plan for the future while adapting to the challenges of fishing, tourism, businesses, residents, and industry to provide compliant and sustainable services at the best value.

In regard to recent water quality complaints, they largely relate to the record warm 2011-2012 winter, and will be explained. First, a few details of the water treatment process must be summarized to explain water quality complaints and actions.

Chlorine is used for primary disinfection at the two main water treatment plants (WTPs), Babson and West Gloucester and the smaller limited capacity Klondike water treatment plant. Following the 2009 boil order, immediate emergency upgrades were performed in 2010 to the WTPs and other components of the public water system that continue and will be complete in 2013 that consist of upgrades at WTPs, storage tanks, pumping stations, and water mains.

This includes the July 2010 switch of secondary water distribution system disinfection from chlorine alone to a combination of chlorine and ammonia that creates monochloramine, a milder disinfectant than chlorine alone. Monochloramine and chlorine alone are the two main accepted federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection secondary disinfection practices that communities are required to maintain in the distribution system that brings water to homes and businesses.

Monochloramine produces fewer disinfection byproducts and maintains a longer lasting residual disinfectant level than chlorine alone in the water distribution system.

The winter of 2011-2012 was a record warm winter and most of the city’s drinking water reservoirs did not ice over, warmed up far earlier than normal following most winter, and were warmer than usual through summer months. In 2012, the water distribution system experienced July and August water temperatures starting in May, nearly two months early. Warmer water is more chemically and biologically active.

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