WESTFIELD – The Water Resource Department is notifying residents of a high bacteria count after water quality tests indicated a high coliform bacteria count in samples taken under state Department of Environmental Protection protocols.
The Westfield Water Resources Department (WWRD) collects 12 samples weekly from various points in the water distribution for analysis for total coliform bacteria. Total coliform bacteria are naturally present in the environment and are used as an indicator that other, potentially harmful, bacteria may be present. Three samples collected on June 12, 2012 tested positive for total coliform.
The DEP was immediately notified and repeat samples were collected for each positive sample. In addition, samples were collected from the two wells that were in operation in the 24 hour period prior to the distribution samples. In all, 65 routine distribution system and source samples and 10 repeat samples were collected for the month of June and 14 were positive for coliform bacteria.
This has resulted in a total coliform violation for the month of June, as 19 percent of water samples tested positive for total coliform bacteria. The drinking water standard is that no more than 5 percent of samples may do so. Total coliform bacteria were detected in 3 of 58 routine samples collected from the water system in June. Consequently, the department collected 17 repeat samples, and eleven of those samples tested positive for total coliform bacteria. Coliforms are an indicator organism and are not harmful themselves.
No E. coli bacteria were detected in any sample, and enterococcus (a fecal indicator) was not detected in the two source (well) samples. This was not an emergency. If it had been an emergency city residents would have been notified immediately.
Although the presence of low levels of total coliform bacteria alone is generally not a health hazard, people with severely compromised immune systems, infants, and the elderly may be at increased risk when exposed to the bacteria. These people are advised to consult with their health care providers.
The source of the coliform was traced to an East Mountain storage tank, and thus the tank was taken temporarily off-line on June 15th. Following repairs and disinfection the tank was scheduled to be placed back in service last Friday. The East Mountain tank is nearing the end of its useful life and will require extensive repairs or replacement in the near future.
Violation of a drinking water standard requires public notification under DEP regulations. Notices will have been mailed to each customer by this Friday. For more information, please contact David Billips of the Westfield Water Resources Dept. at (413) 572-6243.
Systems Engineer Charles Darling said the bacteria cleared out of the distribution system after the storage tank was taken out of service.
“The bacteria is an indicator organism. We were able to determine that the tank was definitely the source, although we didn’t find any obvious cause, such as rain water leaking into the tank.” Darling said. “We drained the tank and flushed it with chlorine.”
Darling said that the June heat wave may have caused the water to rise to the top of the tank where the bacteria bloomed.
“That’s just a theory. The tank is more than 50 years old and is deteriorating. It needs extensive repairs or we replace the tank entirely,” he said.
“We are trying to identify a funding source,” he said. “The DEEP suggested that because this is a water quality issue, it may be a candidate for the state revolving loan program.”
A new tank could be constructed next to the existing tank and connected to the existing water line infrastructure, reducing the cost of a tank replacement effort if it is not feasible to repair the present storage tank.