Town monitoring high chemical levels found in Reed Road water

Aug 23, 2021

Town officials are urging action amid an ongoing violation to the town’s drinking water standards along Reed Road, but also stress that the water is safe for consumption.

Residents have expressed concerns about coloration and smells of the water. Water Department representatives told the Select Board on Aug. 23 that the issues are being addressed.

Water Department Superintendent Steve Sullivan said that the water department takes “a lot of samples during the day,” to monitor for high levels of trihalomethanes (TTHMs) — a byproduct of chlorine disinfectants — in the water.

TTHMs and haloacetic acids have been found in the town’s water supply in levels just above state standards intermittently since 2013. 

In May, Interim Public Works Director Tim Barber in a Dartmouth Community Media notice said the water department detected that a newly extended water main along Reed and Old Fall River roads was above the town’s standard maximum contaminant level.

Notices were sent out to all residents connected to that system.

The violation came following the town’s treatment system switch from chlorine to chloramines in March. Officials expected that the switch would reduce chemicals in the water.

Barber noted that due to the Reed Road main’s lack of connections, it likely did not get a full disinfection by the time of the Water Department’s May water sample test.

“It really didn’t have enough time to get through the whole water main and have a full system effect,” he said.

In November 2019, Dartmouth borrowed nearly $1.3 million from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust for improvements to reduce TTHM levels.

Over many years, drinking high levels of TTHMs may result in liver, kidney, or central nervous system problems, or an increased risk of cancer.

To fix the issue, Sullivan said the town has been working to flush the lines and will retest the quality.

“I’m hoping for a good result,” he said.

So far, he said, maximum contaminant levels are “good throughout the town,” aside from the Reed Road spot.

He added that the Water Department also constantly tests for nitrates — an indicator of a problem on the town’s filtration system.

“I haven’t seen any problems at all,” Sullivan said. “They all come back non-detect, other than one — after the next week, that sample came back non-detect.”

These are not the only water concerns, Select Board Chair Shawn McDonald said.

He said that many residents have voiced concern over green colored water and water that smells like chlorine.

According to Barber, the new chloramine system “should take some of the chlorine smell out of the water.”

As for colored water, Sullivan said that issue was with one of the newer wells on Old Westport Road. 

He said the green water was limited to the well itself, adding that the water treatment facility was simply unable to remove the discoloration.

After finding out the sample was discolored, Sullivan said that the well was immediately shut off to solve the issue.

“We did some flushing,” he said. “Eventually, it worked its way out of the system — I haven’t had any complaints since.”

If anyone does notice something is off with their water, McDonald urges residents to immediately call the Water Department. Sullivan said he will investigate and try to resolve the issue.

“I am the one that goes out there,” Sullivan said. “I’m waiting for those phone calls.”