, Gloucester, MA

July 24, 2013

Editorial: City right to step up crackdown on reservoir swimmers

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The idea of jumping into a body of water to cool off no doubt crosses just about everybody’s mind these days, and that was especially the case last week, when temperatures reached into the 90s for five straight days.

But it’s hard to believe that at least a dozen young people chose to do so in reservoirs — bodies of water that are labeled as part of Gloucester’s public water supply – and even more troubling that, by all appearances, those partying by and swimming in the these waters had not come upon them by accident, but made them their destination.

To that end, it was good to see Gloucester Police crack down on the practice last week, when officers arrested 12 people — nine from Reading, three from Danvers — and towed eight cars from the Klondike and Haskell reservoirs. Yet it’s also clear that other public drinking water swimming holes, like Dykes Reservoir, are drawing visitors as well (see news story, Page 1). And that’s getting to be a scary prospect for city residents.

We’d all like to think, of course, that the city’s drinking water system and its chloramines would make our water safe for drinking by the time it flows from these reservoirs to our home taps. And it’s important to note that, no, there is not yet any sign whatsoever of any water contamination.

But it’s also important to listen to the words of Larry Durkin, Gloucester’s DPW environmental engineer and resident water expert. While noting that officials are generally powerless to keep any wild animals out of the reservoirs, it would be nice if some of those “wild animals” weren’t humans as well. With people hitting the water as well, he said, “you’re more likely to get e. coli bacteria into a surface water supply.”

Look, the city cannot possibly fence off all of its reservoirs, and it’s not practical to have uniformed officers spending entire shifts on reservoir patrol.

It could be worth a look, however, to have reserve officers spend more time in the areas prone to these reckless and disrespectful swimmers, at least through the summer season. And it is essential that our courts take these charges seriously and assess fines that represent more than the usual slap on the wrist.

Diving into the ocean or a pond is obviously a cooling experience on a hot day; but diving into a reservoir isn’t cool, it’s against the law, and it can threaten public safety. Let’s hope the city continues to step up its efforts to drive that point home.