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Posted on: November 22, 2016

Water quality improvements and plans for the future


The residents of the Town of Webster have been dealing with the frustrating issue of discolored water for a number of years. Discolored water can be caused by a number of conditions, one of the most common being unlined cast iron pipes that generate rust when they come into contact with settled water.  Unfortunately, our groundwater also contributes to our problem with discolored water. High levels of iron and manganese can be found in groundwater sources throughout New England so we are not alone in this problem. We need to treat our water to control these levels while also balancing our need to maintain a chlorine residual in the distribution system to control bacteria. Unfortunately, the chlorine required for disinfection also causes the iron and manganese to oxide and discolor the water. Please know that we work diligently to ensure that all of our water treatment programs are beneficial to public health. In our Town's case, the unfortunate side effect of un-lined pipes, iron & manganese, and chlorine is discolored water.

So how do we make our water clean? We're happy to inform you that we are at the beginning of Step 1 of a 2 step process: Step 1 is to construct a Water Filtration Plant to remove unwanted natural elements from our water. Step 2 will involve upgrading our water distribution system to either line our unlined cast iron pipes or replace them. Let's first bring you up to date on Step 1.

Step 1 - Water Filtration Plant
The bidding process for the construction of the new Water Filtration Plant was recently completed and the contract was awarded to a qualified contractor. The contractor, Robert B. Our, mobilized to the Memorial Beach site in March, 2018 and has begun construction activities.  It is anticipated that the treatment plant will be completed, and fully operational, in June, 2019.  The facility will remove the elevated raw water concentrations of iron and manganese levels from both Station #1 and Station #2 before adding the necessary chlorine disinfection.

Step 2 - Cleaning & Lining or Pipe Replacement
This year, we are planning to initiate a comprehensive cleaning and lining program of our unlined cast iron pipes. We have come up with a prioritized list of streets where we will be conducting this work. The work will involve scrapping the interior of the pipes, and then either spraying or inserting a liner that not only creates a barrier between the water and the iron pipe, it also increases the pipe’s ability to transport water during high flow periods (i.e. fire-fighting).   Some sections of Town will require the replacement, or addition, of water main to increase fire flows.  This will be a long-term project since the majority of our system (50% - 40 miles) is unlined cast iron and will likely take several separate funding efforts to complete.

Our Board of Selectmen has been extremely supportive, hearing your concerns about the need to upgrade our water system to achieve optimal water quality. The new Water Filtration Plant will dramatically help, but the work will not end there. We need the continued support of our elected and appointed officials as well as you, our customers, to complete the long-term goal of achieving optimal water production for our Town.

Other Department Activities

A - Hydrant Flushing Program
During the time the Water Filtration Plant is being built, we will continue our biannual Hydrant Flushing program. We have noticed a sizeable decrease in the amount of water it takes to complete this task. This indicates that our flushing system is doing a great job of clearing out more of the stronger, adhered debris. Our water pressure is increased as our pipes become wider and able to accommodate a larger, faster flow of water.

B - Ice Pigging
For the time being, we have discontinued our Ice Pigging program that we previously used to clear the worst sections of our system of heavy debris. The majority of our streets that were treated in the last three years have noticed an improvement in their water quality and this is a tool that we may return to in the future once the Water Filtration Plant is up and running.  In the future, the Town will evaluate the need to continue both the Ice Pigging program as well as the need for flushing the distribution system more than once per year.

One Final Note
We are really excited to be able to report the progress that has been made in moving forward to correct the issues that are causing discolored water in the Town. As always, the Town will continue to work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Drinking Water Division on every aspect of addressing and correcting our water quality issues. Please be assured that this agency is committed to working with the Town to help us find a remedy for our customers. 

The Town, especially the Water Department, are most appreciative of your patience and support while we work to ensure access to clean water for all of our customers. Please call the Town of Webster Water Department with any questions or concerns: (508) 949-3861. Thank you!

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