The Water and Sewer Commission is looking at filtration options for the Town of Norton to put a stop to brown water, including one with an initial price tag of $7 million.
Residents have been voicing their concerns over “dirty brown water” making its way through their pipes, especially over the past few months.
“It happens way too often, at least once a month at my house,” wrote Leo Venuti on a Facebook page called “Sick of Dirty Water in Norton Massachusetts.”
“Not only disgustingly dirty, but they are killing us with outrageous water bills for this stuff...my water bill has doubled and yet I can't use the water...we have to buy bottled water for consumption,” wrote Cherrie Carine. “It is also destroying our water-using appliances and creating plumbing problems.”
The discoloration is caused by iron and manganese, natural elements found in the ground.
The brown water and the iron manganese problems are not health issues,” assured Sewer and Water Commissioner Duane Knapp to Selectmen Wednesday night.
When there is a surge or disruption in the blended water system, the sediments are stirred up, causing the discoloration to occur.
“We’ve had major major construction. We’ve done upgraded water mains because of iron manganese in the main,” he said. “Under normal operations we don’t have any issues. But when something disrupts the water system like we’ve had this last summer and the last couple of months with General Motors and Verizon going in.”
The current water treatment includes potassium hydroxide for corrosion control, blended phosphate for corrosion control and to sequester iron and manganese and sodium hypochlorite for disinfection. When they flush, they go to every hydrant in town and let it flow until there is no trace of sediments in a white Styrofoam cup.
“You have almost 1,000 fire hydrants in this town, so it takes at least 10 to 12 weeks,” Knapp said.
But to tackle the aesthetics, 10 options are being looked at with a focus on three that may produce the best results.
According to a study prepared by Weston & Sampson, a consulting firm, wells 4, 5 and 6 produce more iron and manganese than the secondary maximum contaminant level set by the Department of Environmental Protection for aesthetic reasons. The option that may produce the best results is through the pressured filtration of those wells. However, it would take three to five years to complete the project, and will cost $7 million in permitting, design and capital cost. It would also come with an additional annual operational cost of $150.
“I hate the pricetag, but it’s our water supply. I think we really need to think through what we are looking at what we need in the future and who is going to control the water that we are consuming in the Town of Norton,” said Selectwoman Mary Steele.
Alternative two is to get a new gravel well, which would potentially abandon or reduce flows at wells 4, 5 and 6. The water quality could also be unpredictable. This would take two to five years to complete, $1.5 to 2.2 million in permitting, design and capital cost and $20 to 40K in additional annual operational cost.
The third option is through Taunton wholesale, which would cost $300 to 700k initially and another $150 to 170K yearly. It would one to two years to complete the project. However, an agreement would be needed with Taunton, something that has not worked out in the past. They also add chloride to their water.
“I’m more inclined to stick with our own water and our own control rather than have to rely on someone else, ” said Selectman Robert Kimball.
Knapp recommends putting wells 4, 5 and 6 in one treatment plant and using 1 and 3 as backup wells.
In the meantime, the brown water can be handled by homeowners. Knapp suggested that residents try lowering the temperatures on their hot water tanks, using powdered bleach instead of the liquid form and flush hot water tanks twice a year after the town flushes, following the instructions that came with the tank. Home filtration systems can also be purchased, which cost around $50, but it is advised that someone change the filter on a regular basis.
Knapp also noted that there is no need to buy a water softener, as Norton’s water is not hard.
The next steps include conducting a well sampling program and verifying that well sources are not under the influence of surface water. From there authorization will be sought at Town Meeting before working on a design.
Selectmen will attend a Water and Sewer Commission meeting to further discuss options. The public also encouraged to attend their open meetings.
“The Water Department itself and the Board, we’re here to help you,” Wiseman said. “If you’ve got specific problems, call us. We’d be glad to help.”
The Water Department can be reached at 508-285-0280.