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Fire chief, DPW director respond to recent water discoloration issues

by | Oct 11, 2023 | Featured: News, News, Police & Fire

As the town works to resolve several instances of water discoloration over the past two weeks, the town’s interim fire chief explained that one cause was from a power outage Thursday morning in the neighborhood near the Eversource LNG facility.

“A security guard at the LNG plant on Wilson Street reported a loud blast, loss of power and abnormal venting,” according to Thursday’s police report. Two police officers responded to the complaint, along with Fire Department personnel.

“Whenever something happens in that area, people assume it’s the LNG plant,” explained interim Fire Chief Gary T. Daugherty Jr. “The blast actually came from a neighboring property. A bunch of people lost power.”

“The LNG plant shut down during that time,” he added. “Everyone worked together and followed the proper procedures as designed.”

While the neighborhood experienced a temporary loss of power, Daugherty was not aware of the duration of the outage.

When reached via email by the Independent Wednesday afternoon, Eversource spokesperson Christopher R. McKinnon reiterated that last week’s incident did not involve the LNG facility.

“There have been no issues at our Hopkinton LNG plant and it continues to operate safely, as designed,” he said. “After the event last week that was unrelated to the LNG facility, the plant followed proper safety protocols and procedures.”

This power outage also affected the Ashland water treatment plant that provides water to Hopkinton, causing it to rapidly turn off and on.

“When the water goes off and on like that, it stirs up sedimentation in the pipes,” Daugherty explained. “That was the cause of the black water.”

That afternoon, the Hopkinton Water Department flushed multiple fire hydrants in the area to try to clear the lines.

DPW director addresses concerns

At Tuesday night’s Select Board meeting, Department of Public Works Director Kerry Reed spoke about the water discoloration situation.

“We just wanted to come in and let you know that we’re aware of the issue,” she said. “We’ve been trying to respond to the residents as they call in.

“The Water Department has been working diligently to address the issue,” Reed continued, noting that an engineer has been consulted “to try to come up with a longer-term solution.” She stressed that “the water is safe, although it is a little bit unnerving to see the water come out like that.”

“The Town believes the discoloration is being caused by higher-than-expected demand and inconsistent water flow, which can stir up naturally occurring sediment such as iron and manganese,” according to a statement released by the town earlier that day. “Though discolored, the water is safe to drink.”

Reed noted at the meeting that because colder weather is approaching, “it’s not as conducive to flushing.”

Said Reed: “So we might have to wait until the spring to do a more comprehensive program.”

Issues prompt action by Water Department

There have been several instances of water discoloration over the past two weeks that the town has been working to address. Water-Sewer Department Manager Eric Carty announced Wednesday morning in a statement, adding that “the department is aware of another pocket of discoloration moving through the system in the Springwood Development.”

Stated Carty: “Crews will check additional hydrants in those areas along with the current ones that have been running.”

On Tuesday morning, the Water Department conducted required fire flow tests between 8-10 a.m. in the South Street and Lumber Street area. Because these tests occurred on main transmission lines, customers may have experienced some discoloration during and after the tests throughout town.

On Oct. 6, members of the town’s emergency management group met to discuss the water color discoloration issue in town, Carty shared. In response, he said the Water Department “will continue to flush hydrants for the foreseeable future to help with the situation.”

In a follow-up press release, the town noted that it is working on “an extensive flushing program and a more permanent solution. “

In the meantime, residents are advised to run water from a high-volume faucet, such as a bathtub, to reduce or eliminate discoloration. Residents also should check the water before doing laundry, as clothing may be damaged.

These instances came one week after the Water Department turned off the Alprilla Farm wells on Sept. 29 to mitigate intermittent water discoloration in that area that began two days prior.

For Water Department updates, visit the town’s website.

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