Water Commissioners follow up on water discoloration issue; abatements available

July 3, 2024 By Carol Britton Meyer

The Weir River Water System and Veolia, which operates the water company, are gearing up for the busy Fourth of July holiday and the expected additional usage, with staff at heightened readiness throughout the day. WRWS serves customers in Hingham, Hull, and North Cohasset.

Precautionary measures are in place following the widespread water discoloration that began on Juneteenth and continued for several days.

“Everything has settled down,” WRWS Managing Director Russell Tierney told the board of water commissioners (the Hingham select board) at its July 2 meeting. “Things are getting back to where they should be. Water usage is down a little bit but will ramp up with the holiday coming.”

Customers are asked to continue to go by the current restrictions on outside watering through July 4 and to continue conservation efforts throughout the summer, even when a watering ban is not officially in place.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection rated the discoloration event a 3 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the worst-case scenario, according to Tierney.

“We will provide MassDEP with the information they requested,” he said. “We need to do a report and provide a checklist to be sure everything is covered.”

Abatement requests accepted
Abatement requests related to the duration of the water discoloration are being accepted through a link on the WRWS website —https://www.weirriverwater.org/987/Contact-Us.

Veolia Regional Vice President South Coast Region John Oatley  explained that a draft report with the findings and also historical water system information is expected to be ready by July 25. “It’s an ongoing investigation,” he said.

Contributing factors to recent events included the extreme heat leading to increased demand for water on June 19; the fact that many people were at home since it was a holiday — causing higher water usage — a localized break in a 76-year-old Leavitt Street water main between Main and Short streets in Hingham Centre; the need for additional system maintenance and infrastructure upgrades, to update the system with recent technology advancements, and much better communication, as well as other factors “unknown at this time.”

Immediate actions in response to the water discoloration to help ensure there aren’t any repeats and to enhance customer communication include adjusting the tank monitoring alarm setpoints and the timing and range of the tank recharge; updating the WRWS emergency response plan; collaboration on improving community outreach; and the development of an enhanced flushing program that is expected to start around October.

“We are also continuing to explore and implement effective infrastructure improvements,” Oatley said.

Communication improvements underway
Christopher Halleron, Manager of Communications & Community Relations at Veolia, is working with media outlets and the three communities to update its stakeholder contact list. Engaging in “test” messaging to encourage customer participation and to evaluate the responses is in the works but not ready for prime time yet.

Water quality remains an ongoing concern among the water commissioners and customers.  Testing of the distribution system takes place five times during the summer and regularly at the treatment plant. More information will be available.

Customers with water quality concerns are encouraged to email waterquality@weirriverwater.com.

Citizens Advisory Board Chair Steven Weiss noted that “a lot of lessons have been learned at this point and how to move forward.”

The CAB will meet in advance of the release of the July 25 draft report “to discuss the communications piece. Part of the messaging has to relate to from whom the messages are coming — WRWS or Veolia.” The CAB is comprised of members from the three towns.

Hingham Select Board Chair Joseph Fisher said he was pleased that “steps are being taken to minimize risks on July 4, and we’re looking forward to receiving and reviewing the report.”

For all customer service inquiries, contact Weir River Water System/Veolia 24 hours per day at (877) 253-6665 or wrcs@veolia.com

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