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Scituate gets brown water for the holidays

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 27, 2013 12:02 PM

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Tara Connaughton

Brown water was an unexpected Christmas present for many around a Norwell Avenue break on Christmas morning.


The present Scituate resident Tara Connaughton received on Christmas was one she neither expected, nor wanted.

“Nothing like waking up on Christmas morning to this!” she said in an email, an attached picture showing her faucet producing water the color of tea.

Brown water is nothing new for this coastal town, which experienced discolored water problems throughout the summer as well as during water main breaks several times within the last couple of months.

The town is preparing for a $22 million pipe replacement project in the spring, approved by Town Meeting in November, but it will be months before residents see relief.

In the meantime, brown water problems persist.

In late October, two water main breaks due to construction at Stenbeck Place caused pervasive water problems throughout town.

On Dec. 3, a major water main break caused by construction in Scituate Harbor caused brown water, followed by a water main break on Dec. 5 on Egypt Beach Road.

A Dec. 16 water main break on Country Way took crews several hours to locate and repair, and on Christmas Day, town officials said, crews spent six to eight hours repairing the water main break on Norwell Avenue, caused by a combination of the cold weather and the old age of the pipe.

These problems followed months of brown water last summer, the product of increased water usage, a fire, and an outage at the Water Treatment Plant.

Though the causes of the water main breaks vary, the brown water is caused by mineral sediments within the pipe. When the flow of the water changes – such as during a break – or the force of the flow is altered, the pieces of sediment break off and mix with the already filtered water.

Although it may be some time before any pipe change replacements occur, Department of Public Works Town Engineer Kevin Cafferty said the $22 million project will have an immediate effect for the entire town.

“Any pipe that we replace will benefit the whole town,” he said in a phone interview, noting that all the town’s pipes are connected.

Neighbors closest to problematic pipes will likely see the biggest difference. The order of replacements will be determined by the severity of the problem.

Engineers are also determining how many pipes can be replaced at once without heavily disrupting traffic and water service.

“We know the pipes that needs to be replaced, but how can we do the most work while disrupting the least amount of people?” Cafferty said.

Cafferty said he will have to consult with the Police Department and the Fire Department to ensure response times to different neighborhoods aren’t impacted by the work.

Construction is likely to start in April or May, Cafferty said. Before starting work, officials plan to hold a public meeting to gain feedback on the selected streets and the planned work.

For now, the reoccurrence of breaks clearly shows why the $22 million project was needed, Caferty said.

“Fortunately, we have a solution and we’ll start to implement it to minimize [problems],” Cafferty said.

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