City of Gloucester Water Update

Posted by: cpantano on 08/27/2009 17:53:02
Updated by: cpantano on 08/27/2009 17:57:05
Expires: 08/31/2009 00:00:00


Water Supplements

Additional Chlorine continues to be added into the water system in West Gloucester and East Gloucester.

Impact on Schools

Schools will be opened as scheduled. Additional information will be available on the school’s website

Low Water Pressure/Discolored water

We realize that there may be low water pressure and discolored water in certain area of the city. This is a byproduct of the flushing of the water system and is necessary to get chlorinated water to those areas.

Frequently asked questions regarding the water situation:

When can we expect a lifting of the Boil Water order?

After we receive two consecutive days worth of zero coliform hits and we agree with whatever additional testing and oversight issues the DEP requests.

How will I know when the boil water order is lifted?

Code Red will be activated, the media will be notified, the city web site will be updated, the signboards located at Grant Circle and the Boulevard will be changed, and the 978… message will be changed. We will also request Cape Ann TV to post on channel 12 and 20.  Blogs will also be notified such as Cape Ann online and Good Morning Gloucester.

Just what is a “hit” in reference to coliform testing?

A hit means there is presence of coliform at that testing location. It is a simple (+) yes there is coliform or (-) no there isn’t coliform present.

What is the allowable amount of positive hits normally?

The DEP measures coliform hits on a % basis.  5% (+) results for coliform of all testing done on a monthly basis is acceptable.

How many sites are tested per day?

Normal testing occurs weekly at 10 standard locations throughout the city. If a (+) hit is discovered retesting is required within 24 hrs. All testing takes 24-28 hours to get the written analysis of the test results back to the DPW/administration. If a retest comes back (-) normal testing on a weekly basis resumes. If this retest comes back (+) additional tests of that location as well as locations up and down stream of the original (+) are taken. Any (+) tests are required to be retested until testing indicates a (-){zero coliform} If testing starts to show a trend of increased (+) hits then testing is increased to every other day throughout the city. If the trend of (+) hits does not appear to be lessening quick enough testing is done every day at many locations based on historical data and test results from previous days. This process is reflected in the hits recorded during this incident which showed small amounts of hits initially requiring retesting, an increase in hits over several days requiring additional daily testing sites, and a current decline in hits resulting in less testing sites daily.

When does the City get notified of a potential problem?

When the total number of (+) coliform hits exceed 5% of the running total of tests done calculated on a monthly basis.  If this limit is not exceeded during the 30 days a final report is issued to the city showing all the test results. As long as the % is under 5% the City is not notified. It is normal to have a small number of hits which are retested and these hit numbers are recorded but no notification is required.

Why were we not notified earlier about the fact that the water is “bad”?

The Mayor’s Office was not notified by the DEP until Friday afternoon, August 21st.  We immediately notified citizens of the boil water order issued by DEP via a Code Red call.

Have I been drinking contaminated water?

There is nothing to indicate that there is anything in the City’s water supply to make anyone sick.  The boil water order put in place by the DEP is to err on the side of caution until chlorine levels are where they should be.  Low chlorine levels could allow bacteria to get into the water supply.  No test results have indicated the presence of e-coli or fecal matter in the City’s water supply.

Are there any plans for the City to distribute bottled water, as had been done in the Town of Milford?

At the present time, there are no plans to distribute bottled water.  It is recommended that you boil your water for one minute before consuming.

What are the restaurants who are open serving their patrons?

Restaurants that remain open are most likely following the guidelines set forth by the Board of Health.  Some restaurants chose to close, while others obviously have decided to remain open.

If I only have to boil my water for 1 minute why do restaurants have to boil theirs for 5 minutes?

Although boiling water for a full minute will kill any bacteria present, if a homeowner fails to do this the impact will be on the health of a few number of people in that household. If a restaurant feeding dozens or hundreds of people over the course of the day makes the same mistake the health of a much larger number of people is put at risk. That is why food service vendors are required to boil their water for five minutes instead of the one minute for home consumption.

If we are being asked to conserve water, why do I see hydrants running in the street?

Hydrants are being opened in a selected manner to draw chlorinated water through the system to kill the coliform bacteria. Normally chlorine is injected into the water delivery system at the Bond Hill storage site. Opening these hydrants forces water to be drawn from Bond Hill throughout the system.

Will school open on time?

All schools will open on time. Students will have bag lunches Tues, Weds, and Thurs. even if the boil water is lifted before then. This is because the school department wants to ensure that all the water lines in all the schools as well as the underground pipes feeding into the schools are completely flushed. This flushing cannot take place until after the boil order is lifted. In the interim school water fountains have been secured, drinking water supplies will be available within the schools, and additional sanitizing devices have been placed in all the schools.


I did not get the phone call about the boil water order, but I did get the Mayor’s phone calls.  What is wrong with the system?

The Code Red alert system was just recently installed and we had not had the opportunity to run our testing as anticipated before being pressed into service. People can re-register their information on the City’s website.

I answered my phone, but the call “clicked off” and no message was delivered

There obviously were several “glitches” with the system which we have discussed with Fire Chief Dench, who is the City’s liaison with Code Red, and the vendor. They are currently being addressed.

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