WATER WOES: Swansea residents fed up with dirty water issue
SWANSEA, Mass. (WLNE) - Residents of Swansea are dealing with a dirty water issue, and it's not new. Their running water has been brown for years, and they're fed up.
The water in Swansea contains iron and manganese, minerals that are stuck to the inside of the town's water mains, that have fallen off the pipes over the years and into the water.
"I don't cook with it, I don't drink it, I don't give it to my animals. I have to lug two and a half gallons of jugs to my house all the time because I can't use it."
Betsey Waring has lived in Swansea for almost thirty years, but it wasn't until she moved to the Ocean Grove area of town when she started seeing brown water.
"We do have to shower, we do have to do our laundry, we do have to wash our dishes. We have no choice but to use the water that we're given. I mean, there are no other options."
Waring said the Swansea Water District tells her and her neighbors to just flush out their pipes until their water runs clear. But Waring said, her water is always murky.
“We’re in trouble. We need some help, we need to do something soon.”
Frustrated residents created a Facebook group "Swansea Residents for Clean Water" to share photos and try to push the town to do something. But they say their concerns fall on deaf ears.
"We're getting fought by the town, by the town Swansea Water District, and the Selectmen who have washed their hands in dirty water of us," said resident Ric Oliveira.
Jeffrey Sutherland, superintendent of the Swansea Water District, said they're working on the problem using two tactics: flushing the pipes and ice pigging, a process where crews intentionally freeze the water in a pipe and push it out to scrape the walls of the pipe.
Sutherland said the water is brown because of corrosion control in the pipes to prevent lead and copper from appearing in the town's water. He said an adverse effect happens where the iron and manganese are oxidized, causing it to show up in the water.
He said out of the 125 miles of water mains in the town, the Swansea Water District has flushed 50 miles this fall, and have more flushing and ice pigging planned for the spring.
"Hopefully it moves forward and we're starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope the residents can bear with us as we get to a solution here."
But residents say the root of the problem is the town's desalination facility, which is what's putting the minerals into the pipes in the first place.
"They have the wrong pipes, the wrong equipment, missing units. This is the type of things that are public projects that should be looked at," said Oliveira.
Sutherland admits there's an issue with the facility and said they're conducting a study into it. Residents ultimately want it shut down, but first, they say they need town leaders to acknowledge the extent of the problem.
"On the harmful list, it's relatively low compared to some of the other things that we deal with. But it doesn't make it right, we have to fix it," said Sutherland.
Following complaints from residents, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued a consent order to the water district last October, citing high levels of trihalomethanes, which are chemicals that can cause cancer. The water district was required to submit an engineering report that outlined recommendations, like collecting samples monthly and creating a better flushing program, that Sutherland said they're complying with.
© WLNE-TV 2019