ATTLEBORO — Mayor Paul Heroux says the city is experiencing a water supply “crisis” and is pleading with residents to obey restrictions put in place nearly a month ago.
Heroux issued a press release Wednesday reminding residents that the city is experiencing a Level 2 Significant Drought and restrictions on water use are in place.
Those who violate them can be fined from $25 to $200 depending on the number of offenses. But some residents have ignored the restrictions, which were put in place June 28.
“I have personally seen people still running sprinkler systems,” he said in an email to The Sun Chronicle. “Sometimes residents are unwilling to comply with the ban and then act like they didn’t know when they are approached by the police who enforce the ban.”
“Residents have reported to me neighbors filling up pools, dumping them a week later, and then filling them up again,” Heroux added. “This needs to stop. We are all in this together.”
Heroux said Attleboro is “experiencing a water supply crisis due to the lack of rain and the overall drought in the region. We need to impress upon residents to abide by the restrictions set out by the city.”
He has ordered city departments to stop watering athletic fields and parks if the supply comes from the city’s reservoirs. If the supply comes from wells, it’s allowed.
Water restrictions include the following:
- Automatic sprinklers are not allowed at any time. That includes underground systems and sprinklers attached to a hose and left unattended.
- Outdoor water use of any kind is not permitted between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. This includes handheld watering; washing cars, buildings, or driveways; watering of gardens; filling of pools, kiddie pools, kiddie sprinklers and slip-and-slides.
Water uses considered essential are allowed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. They include the production of food and fiber, maintenance of livestock, and meeting the core functions of a business. That includes, for example, irrigation by golf courses to maintain tees and greens, or by plant nurseries to maintain stock.
A Level 2 drought is declared when rainfall is below normal for 2 months or more, stream flows are nearing extreme lows and brush fire hazards are increased.
State Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card on Thursday declared a Level 3-Critical Drought in the northeast and central areas of Massachusetts, but the southeast and Connecticut River Valley areas remain at a Level 2-Significant Drought.
“We are seeing the effects of the lack of rainfall here in Attleboro,” Heroux said. “Total rainfall for the year is 8.2 inches lower this year than it was the last 5 previous years at this time. As of mid-July, our reservoirs are already at low levels that usually aren’t seen until much later in the summer.”
Also contributing to the lack of water is the shutdown of the Wading River Water Treatment Plant in Mansfield.
The plant has been closed since September 2021 because it does not meet the new state-imposed limits on polyfluoroalkyls, or PFAS.
The new standard of 20 parts per trillion for a combination of 6 PFA compounds was established by the state in October 2020
Heroux noted last year that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a standard of 70 ppt for two of the PFA compounds.
The Wading River Plant was scheduled to reopen on June 20, but that was postponed until July 20.
In a typical summer, the city needs 6.5 million to 8 million gallons of water per day.
The Russell F. Tennant Water Treatment Plant on West Street can produce 4 million and Wading River can produce about 2 million.
Meanwhile, Ward 3 City Councilor Todd Kobus said the EPA has lowered the standard for PFAS to 0.02 ppt.
Much of the water produced at Wading River is used in Ward 3 and Ward 4.
“Essentially, the EPA wants the limits to be as close as possible to zero as a growing body of research has shown how toxic these compounds are,” he said in an email. “My intent is to raise awareness, particularly in areas which may be impacted more than others.”
Kobus said, however, that the information “should not cause panic.”
Effects of PFAS emerge with long-term use.
“The water is not expected to be worse than it was before sampling started last year,” Kobus said. “What has changed is our understanding of the long-term negative health impacts of continued PFAS ingestion.”
He said his family has switched to bottled water for drinking and for pets.
He continues to use tap water for brushing his teeth.
“We intend to continue this until the temporary mitigation is in place at Wading River and samples show a reduction in PFAS,” he said. “Every family should decide what is right for them.”
He noted that if someone prefers not to purchase bottled water and that the tap water from Wading River is not acceptable, the city has a fill station at the West Street plant for any resident to fill their own containers free of charge.
Meanwhile the city is working to rectify the compliance problem.
“The City of Attleboro has been working with Tata & Howard, a firm with expertise in water treatment infrastructure, to install a permanent PFAS filtration solution,” Heroux said in a previous news story.
“The city is in the design phase for a PFAS filtration system that will be in compliance with the new state standard. It takes months to engineer and years to install a new filtration system needed to accommodate up to 2 (million gallons a day).
Heroux said money form the America Rescue Plan Act will offset much of the cost of the new infrastructure.
Those who violate water restrictions are subject to fines. A first offense garners a $25 fine, a second a $50 fine and a third offense and subsequent offenses $200 each.
For more information contact Water Superintendent Kourtney Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 774-203-1850.