Rockport Filtration problems prompt outdoor water ban

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff file photo. Rockport water plant supervisor Chris Martin walks past a series of backwash pumps in the basement of the Rockport Water Treatment Plant last month. The town on Monday is instituting an outdoor watering ban after one of the two filters at the plant was taken offline. Structural damage was noticed after a backwashing cycle, which cleans the filters, was performed.

ROCKPORT — Starting Monday, Memorial Day, all non-essential outdoor water use in town will be prohibited until further notice.

The ban comes in wake of a filtration system failure at the town’s dissolved air flotation water treatment plant on DPW Way. One of its two filters are not in service. The plant is only treating half of the water it typically takes on from Carlson’s Quarry.

The ban "is to assure the demand for water isn’t greater than the ability that we can provide at this time,” Public Works Director Joe Parisi previously told the Times. 

Under the ban, residents may water lawns and gardens only between 5 and 8 p.m., and only for one hour with one hand-held watering hose. Soaker hoses and sprinkler systems and fountains will not be allowed.

Those using well water for outdoor watering will need to register beforehand with Public Works, and display a sign indicating outdoor well water usage on the property where it is visible from the street.

Town Meeting last month approved using $750,000 from the Water Enterprise Fund for design and construction of new water treatment filtration facilities. The plan is to replace the town's entire outdated filtration system with new stainless steel filter underdrains to insure a similar break won't happen again.

Parisi said the Department of Public Works is now drafting the project's specifications in order to put it out to bid sometime in late summer or early fall. These specifications will also need approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection. 

Rockport Public Works officials plan to meet with their Gloucester counterparts sometime next week to devise an action plan in case Rockport is unable to meet the demand for drinking water this summer. The two municipalities have a water main interconnection that gives them the ability to share water supplies with a pull of a lever. 

"A lot of people have had questions about why the ban is necessary when we've had plenty of rain," Parisi said. "It's not about how much water is in the resonators. It's about filtrating the water to meet the town's demand."

Parisi said any questions regarding the water restrictions can be directed to the main business office of the Department of Public Works at 978-546-3525.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.