Peabody always seems to take the brunt of heavy rainstorms, particularly its flood-prone downtown. But in this watery crisis, the North Shore city sailed through with barely a hitch.
While some 2 million people in the Boston area remain without safe drinking water as state officials scramble to restore the region's water system, Peabody residents were -- for once -- only briefly inconvenienced.
State officials lifted the city's boil-water order just a few hours after issuing it Saturday afternoon, although some residents remained uncertain about the city's status for much of the weekend.
In a twist of bad timing, the city had been using water from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority on Saturday during repairs to a local treatment plant, even though it only occasionally uses MWRA as a backup. It shut off the flow when state officials issued the safety advisory.
But because Peabody is among the 61 Boston-area communities served by the water authority, many residents questioned whether their drinking water was safe, and pressed city officials for answers.
"We got quite a few calls," Bradley Perron, assistant superintendent of the city's water department, said with a weary sigh. "Unfortunately there was no way to get the word out to everyone."
Adding to the confusion, many television stations continued to list Peabody after the MWRA had lifted its boil order. The city tapped its local cable channel and automated phone system notify residents, but on a sunny Saturday the messages only reached so many people.
"People saw it on the news, and then they didn't," said Mayor Michael Bonfanti. "But it was safer to err on the side of caution."
Hoping to clear up the matter, the city also posted the good news prominently on its website.
"The water in Peabody is safe to drink," the notice states, under the red-letter headline "Important message." "The City of Peabody is not on the list of communities effected by the Boil Water Order."
On Saturday, city officials recommended that residents in town that had received MWRA water comply with the boil order.
"Just as a precaution," Perron said. "We thought it was best."
Tests have revealed that the water delivered to that section of town was safe, he said.
On the beat
Columnist Adrian Walker says UMass Dartmouth is shaken after revelations that one of the Marathon bomb suspects was a student there. Read more