SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 4, 2013

Ipswich restricts two water wells

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — The town has restricted the use of two water sources after the Department of Environmental Protection issued a new statewide advisory over naturally occurring levels of manganese, according to the town’s Utilities Department.

Manganese is a chemical element that can be found in the air, soil and water, according to MassDEP.

“This is not a water-quality emergency,” Town Manager Robin Crosbie said at Monday night’s selectmen meeting.

MassDEP raised concern over two of the town’s six drinking water sources, Browns Well on High Street and Fellows Road Well.

“The Water Department has been in discussions with DEP and has agreed to restrict Browns Well to emergency use only and to limit the operation of Fellows Road Well,” wrote Vicki Halmen, water and wastewater manager, in a statement. “These voluntary steps will significantly reduce the risk of exceeding the health advisory thresholds.”

The advisory was sent to all water suppliers across the state in October. The new information regarding the potential health impacts of manganese will result in changes to the regulatory requirements for the town.

“This is a new advisory,” Crosbie said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended people drink water with manganese levels less than 300 micrograms per liter (ug/L) and over the short term limit their consumption of water with levels over 1,000 ug/L, primarily due to concerns about possible neurological effects.

The Browns Well was found to have 1,110 ug/L and is currently shut down, while Fells Road Well was found to the have 525 ug/L.

“The four other sources contain manganese levels significantly below the 300 ug/L threshold,” Halmen wrote. “With the ability to operate a combination of our six sources, the water consumed in many areas is a blend of the various sources that are operating at that time.”

The town conducted manganese sampling in the distribution system as a result of the advisory and found none that exceeded the established threshold, according to town officials.

Crosbie said the town must now work to come up with a long-term plan to address the issue. The town has hired a engineering consultant to identify solutions for manganese reduction and to prepare capital and operating cost estimates. Town officials hope to restore the two wells to full use prior to the next peak demand season, May 2014.

“It was not something we anticipated coming forward and isn’t built into our capital plan,” she said.

Halmen said the town is continuing to work with DEP to adjust its operations to ensure compliance with the new advisories and regulations.

“All communities now need to work on this issue in the future,” Crosbie said.

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.