Slight Water Problem Causes Mass DEP Violation | News

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TEWKSBURY – Residents will receive the next quarterly notice from the Tewksbury Water Department in the mail next week, advising them of a violation received from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

According to Scott Brinch, deputy director of Tewksbury’s utilities, tests carried out by the water department on the town’s water supply in the fall revealed an above-normal level of TTHM, of trihalomethanes, a sub- product of the disinfection process. Since the EPA tracks these numbers on a quarterly basis as a moving average, Tewksbury’s levels always show above the required limit on paper, triggering the notification.

“The EPA is forcing us to send this notice, which uses specific language,” Brinch said.

A delay in obtaining mandatory card stock due to supply chain issues, combined with printing issues and postal delays due to the holidays, created a challenge to get mail to residents before the holidays.

“Residents should see the cards this week,” Brinch said.

Conditions at Tewksbury’s water source, the Merrimack River, contributed to the problem in late summer.

“There is more organic material than usual in the river,” said Brinch, noting that other communities who also depend on surface water for their drinking water supply have faced this challenge.

Extreme weather conditions this summer are factors.

“The total organic compounds in Merrimack are at the highest level that can be remembered,” Brinch said in a previous interview.

Issuing the notice is required by the EPA and is standard procedure, according to Brinch. He explained that this does not sound like a boil-out order or an immediate health threat. When the high level of TTHM was detected, the water treatment plant carried out a study of its pre-treatment process.

Brinch said some improvements could be made to the efficiency of the pretreatment, reducing the amount of chlorine added to the water at the start of the process and extending the time that the water has passed through the treatment process.

According to Brinch, raw water must come in contact with chlorine for a specified amount of time in order to meet EPA water safety regulations.

Brinch explained that TTHMs are formed when chlorine, which is added to drinking water to fight bacteria, combines with organic matter in the water over time. When the water is stagnant for a while, TTHMs can form. TTHMs are made up of volatile organic compounds that react with chlorine. These compounds are called “volatile” because they react rather than being inert or unreactive.

It would take many years of exposure to THMs above the recommended level to potentially cause a problem, but notification is required nonetheless.

Since the LFS looks at totals on a four-quarter basis, the average will take a few quarters to sort through. After reading Q3, the reported digits will return to normal levels. Several heat waves and heavy rains this season have contributed to excessive growth of plant material in the Merrimack River. Other materials in the water include silt, clay, trash (decaying material such as dead animals), and other solids.

As a perspective, TTHMs are found in swimming pools, bottled water from a municipal source, commercial products that use water in their production, dairy and inhalation products, according to the World Organization. of health. It is a challenge for all water systems; chlorine is needed to disinfect water, but over time chlorine binds to the natural components of the water to create these additional compounds.

The Merrimack Drive Water Treatment Plant has the highest rating for water purification, so residents should have confidence in their potable water supply. The plant has several phases of water treatment, starting with powdered activated carbon to pre-treat the source water, granular carbon that traps solids, and aeration fans that extract TTHMs from the water. .

Brinch encourages anyone concerned or with questions to call themselves or the town chemist, Melissa Woodbury at 978-858-0345.

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