Important Information About Your Drinking Water

Monitors Detected Less Than Minimum Chlorine Contact Time

Our water system recently violated a drinking water standard. Although this was not an emergency, you, as our customers, have a right to know what happened, what you should do, and what we did to correct this situation.

We routinely monitor your water for chlorine residual and the sufficient contact time for chlorine with our drinking water.

In order to ensure proper disinfection, water from the treatment plant must be in contact with chlorine or a similar disinfectant for a minimum amount of time, called the contact time. On Saturday, June 4, 2016, this minimum contact time was not achieved.  At approximately 1:00 a.m., a water control valve at the East New Lenox Road Flow Control Station malfunctioned and allowed a higher flow of water than the chlorine treatment system could match. The on-call water plant operator was notified of this situation by the automated alarm system (SCADA), but the operator disregarded the alarms. This high-flow condition persisted for approximately five hours until water operators responded and restored the station to normal operating conditions by switching to an alternate flow control valve.   

Although chlorine quickly kills most bacteria, it is less effective against other potential pathogens such as viruses and parasites. For this reason, water needs to mix with chlorine for a longer contact time to kill such potential pathogens. This contact time depends on the amount of disinfectant in the water and the temperature and pH of the water.

What should I do?

  • You do not need to boil your water or take any other action. We do not know of any contamination, and none of our testing has shown disease-causing organisms in the drinking water.
  • People with severely compromised immune systems, infants, and some elderly may be at increased risk. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1 (800) 426-4791.

What does this mean?

This situation does not require that you take immediate action. If it did, you would have been notified immediately. Tests taken during this same period did not indicate the presence of bacteria in the water.

Inadequately treated water may contain disease-causing organisms and other pathogens. These organisms and other pathogens include bacteria, viruses, and parasites, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches. These symptoms, however, may not necessarily be caused by pathogens in drinking water. If you experience any of these symptoms and they persist, you may want to seek medical advice.

What happened? What was done?

A malfunction occurred with the flow control valve at the East New Lenox Road Flow Control Station, which receives treated water from the Ashley Water Treatment Plant. The flow control at the station was restored about 5 hours after the incident was reported.  The on-call water operator who disregarded the alarms is now subject to a disciplinary action.   

For more information, please contact Brian Stack, certified operator for the City’s Public Water System, at (413) 499-9339 or the address above.

Please share this information with all other people who drink and otherwise use this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses). You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail.

This notice is being sent to you by the Pittsfield DPU Water Department.   Public Water Supply ID#: 1236000             

CITY OF PITTSFIELD WATER QUALITY

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

What were the circumstances behind the June 2016 chlorine violation?

At approximately 1:00 am on Saturday, June 4, 2016, at the East New Lenox Road flow control station, a water control valve malfunctioned when it opened too wide allowing a high flow of water into the distribution system.  The chlorine treatment system adds chlorine gas to the water at a certain rate depending on water flow but it could not add enough chlorine to match the high flow rate.  Thus, the minimum contact time, or the minimum time that is required for a certain amount of chlorine to disinfect a certain volume and temperature of water by mixing with it, was not achieved. The on-call water plant operator was notified of this situation via an automated alarm system but the operator disregarded the alarms. The alarm condition continued for approximately five hours until normal operating conditions were restored at the station. 

Recent national events have called attention to drinking water quality issues. Is our drinking water safe to use?

Even though the minimum chlorine contact time was not achieved for this period, no testing has shown disease-causing organisms or other pathogens in the drinking water due to this event.  The chlorine treatment system was always operating during this incident.

Why must the City notify the public of this violation?

Massachusetts law requires that the public water users be notified when any water quality treatment does not meet an allowable standard set by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP). The minimum chlorine contact time was not achieved for a period of several hours.

Who is responsible for maintaining the safety of our drinking water? How is it monitored?

Certified drinking water operators are on staff and present at the water treatment facilities for 8 hours per day every day, as required by Mass DEP. The remaining 16 hours per day, water quality is monitored remotely through SCADA, which is a data collection and remote control system, and a certified drinking water operator is on call for those 16 hours per day to respond to any emergency that may arise.

What does the City plan to do to reduce the risk of reoccurrence of this problem?

Our public water system is by far the most critical core service the City provides to the residents and business of the city.  The lack of action by one water plant operator allowed this violation to happen.   It is inexcusable and the employee is subject to a disciplinary action.  Please be assured the water plant operators are committed to providing high quality water.  Systems are in place to monitor the water system and notify staff in the event of alarm conditions.