GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 6, 2013

Gloucester, Manchester officials decry water kits as raising fears

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — Residents in both Gloucester and Manchester have been getting mass-mailed water testing kits in the mail from a company based in Walpole.

And, amid recent water issues in both communities, some say it is more than a coincidence. But local officials say the mailings are misleading and are falsely raising some residents’ fears.

In late June, Manchester issued its yearly water quality report, which noted that a few homes had lead in their drinking water because of the plumbing. But officials say there was — and there remains — no elevated levels of lead in drinking water supplies.

Manchester’s director of the Department Public Works, Bill Fitzgerald, estimated the bulk mailings hit the town around the third week of July.

“I’m assuming everyone in town got them,” he said, adding they are addressed to “resident” and not a specific person for an address.

Officials said the town followed up with the state Department of Environmental Protection, who then informed Premier Water Systems of Walpole, the company that sent the mailings and is pushing the kits, that all water tests must be done at a state lab.

“That can cost a lot of money,” Fitzgerald said.

The packet contains a short survey and a bottle for water a resident wants to be tested. The end of the mailer states that the company is not affiliated with any local, state, or federal government, but the mailer asks for residents’ cell phone numbers and other information.

“Your sample will be analyzed upon receipt and the results will be provided to you at no charge,” the mailer reads.

Gary Zafron, president of Premier, said he does not believe the mailers to be misleading. Zafron said his company has been selling filtration and purification systems since 1989 and has been using the same mailer for 21 years.

But the mailers have also come at a time where some Gloucester officials have raised concerns about people swimming in public drinking water supplies, which is prohibited. And many residents remember the 2009 Gloucester boil-water from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection that — despite daily testing that always promised clear samples — lasted three weeks.

Swimming at beaches in both communities have also been shut down from time to time throughout the summer, because of high levels of bacteria.

Manchester Town Administrator Greg Federspiel said he has not encountered this particular mailer before and acknowledged the complications.

“The timing for us was not helpful, they certainly heard that from us,” he said.

Some material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.