SHIRLEY — One of the Shirley Water District’s three wells has been shut down after a sample from a routine test showed the presence of E. coli bacteria in the water.
The wells are tested monthly, in accordance with federal guidelines, according to a recent notice sent to all users of the Shirley Water District.
The notice went out Sept. 15, alerting users that Well #2 had tested positive for E. coli and would be off line until further notice. It was still down when Superintendent Brian Goodman spoke with a reporter last week, with remediation work in progress.
As of Wednesday morning, Oct. 6, the situation was “status quo,” Goodman said. The well is still off-line and will be until further notice.
The sample was collected on Sept. 14. When the district was notified of the results the next day, Sept 15, the well was immediately shut down.
According to the notice, which has also been posted on-line, E. coli is a “fecal indicator” used to detect groundwater sources that may be susceptible to fecal contamination and may contain harmful viruses or bacteria.
The one-page message provided details, such as signs and symptoms that people might experience after drinking water contaminated with fecal bacteria from human or animal wastes. It also stated, however, that this was only a cautionary flag at this point and not an emergency.
“When we learned of the fecal-positive sample, the well was immediately taken off line,” the notice read. “You do not need to boil your water,” or take any other special precautions “at this time.” the message stated.
Goodman said that people in the water district would be kept informed as the situation develops.
Emergency notices would be a different story, he said, with dedicated outreach and multiple postings all over town.
The district has three wells. Well #2 is located off Catacunemaug Road, Goodman said. The others are both off Patterson Road.
The Sept. 14 test was routine, a process the district conducts each month, he explained. This time, one of the 10 samples — from Well #2, specifically — tested positive for E. coli bacteria. The well was immediately taken off line and state Department of Environmental Protection was notified, he said.
Goodman said he was waiting for a repair crew to arrive, to assess the well and hopefully suggest solutions to fix the problem. They’d “clear the first line” to begin with, he said, pumping that water to waste. Further steps would follow, if needed, he said.
Now, it’s apparent that those steps will be necessary.
On Wednesday morning, Oct. 6, Goodman said he has a couple of company proposals to redevelop Well #2 in hand and said that the Water District commissioners would review them when they met later that day.
Goodman was asked during the earlier conversation what happens if Well #2 is permanently off-line. Would the district build a new one to replace it? Or maybe as a back-up, either way.
They are eyeing potential new well sites, he said. The problem is money, to buy land and build on it. “We need to acquire land … enough to clear a 200-foot radius around the well, he said. Utilities must be brought to the site. Then construction begins. All inclusive, it could cost “a few million,” he said.
Compounding the challenges facing the district, the DEP mandates that the town’s two 750,000-gallon water storage tanks must be repainted, inside and out, for an estimated $1 million each.
Those seeking further information may call Goodman at the Water District number, 978-425-2245, or visit the website www.shirleywater.com.