MWRA's Drinking Water Test Results for 2007
FOR METRO BOSTON/METRO WEST COMMUNTIES
This report is required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act Public Law 104-12, Section 1414 (C), PWS ID #6000000.
This report describes how we treat, test and deliver tap water to your home.
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and your local water department test up to 500 samples each week, and test for over 120 contaminants each year.
A MESSAGE FROM MWRA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FRED LASKEY
WHERE DOES YOUR WATER COME FROM?Your penny buys you a gallon of some of the most well-proteted drinking water in the country, delivered straight to your tap.
Your drinking water comes from the Quabbin Reservoir, about 65 miles west of Boston, and the Wachusett Reservoir, about 35 miles west of Boston. The water from these reservoirs supply wholesale water to local water departments in 50 communities, 44 in greater Boston and MetroWest, three in Western Massachusetts, and is a back-up supply for three others. The two reservoirs combined supplied about 220 million gallons a day of high quality water to consumers in 2007.
Rain and snow falling on the watersheds - protected land around the reservoirs - turn into streams that flow to the reservoirs. This water comes in contact with soil, rock, plants, and other material as it follows its natural path to the reservoirs. While this process helps to clean the water, it can also dissolve and carry very small amounts of material into the reservoir. Minerals from soil and rock do not typically cause problems in the water. But, water can also transport contaminants from human and animal activity. These can include bacteria, viruses, and fertilizers - some of which can cause illness. The test data in this report show that these contaminants are not a problem in your reservoirs' watersheds.
The Quabbin and Wachusett watersheds are protected naturally with over 85% of the land covered in forest and wetlands. About 75% of the total watershed land cannot be built on. The natural undeveloped watersheds help to keep MWRA water clean and clear. Also, to ensure safety, the streams and the reservoirs are tested often and patrolled daily by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has prepared a Source Water Assessment Program report for the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs. The report notes that wildlife (birds and aquatic animals), agriculture, transportation corridors, transmission lines, and residential land use are the key issues in the watershed. The DEP report commends DCR and MWRA on the existing source protection plans, and states that our “watershed protection programs are very successful and greatly reduce the actual risk of contamination.” The report recommends that we maintain present watershed plans and continue to work with the residents, farmers, and other interested parties to maintain the pristine watershed areas.
MAP OF THE MWRA WATER SYSTEM
HOW YOUR WATER IS TREATEDFrom the reservoir to your home - your penny buys you a gallon of great-tasting, clean water that has been treated with ozone for disinfection.
Water Treatment Steps - Carroll Water Treatment Plant
Since July 2005, the water you drink is treated at the John J. Carroll Water Treatment Plant in Marlborough. The first treatment step is disinfection of reservoir water. MWRA’s licensed treatment operators carefully add measured doses of ozone gas bubbles to the water to kill any pathogens (germs) that
IMPROVEMENTS TO THE WATER SYSTEM
MWRA’s Improvements to the Water Supply
MWRA has nearly completed its $1.7 billion Integrated Water Supply Improvement Program. These projects are the largest investments made in the water system since the Quabbin Reservoir was constructed in the 1930s. But, MWRA is still working to improve the system. Construction is underway on a covered storage tank in the Blue Hills in Quincy. MWRA and our community partners will continue to make the necessary investments to maintain and upgrade our facilities, so that we can deliver quality water directly to customers'
Maintaining the Pipe System
MWRA and its customer communities have an extensive pipe network with
Want to know how you can save some pennies? Conservation! On average, each person uses about 65 gallons of water each day. There are many simple ways you can conserve water, including: fixing leaks, installing low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads, or minimizing your outdoor watering. MWRA has an active conservation program, and it is paying off.
Demand has dropped dramatically and water usage is lower than it has been in
TEST RESULTSTesting your water every step of the way: your penny buys you a gallon of safe water that has been tested every step from the reservoir to your home.
Tests Before Treatment
We test the water as it leaves the reservoir to see how well protected our watersheds are. Test results show few contaminants are found in the reservoir water. The few that are found are in very small amounts, well below EPA’s standards. Turbidity (or cloudiness of water) is one measure of overall water quality. Typical levels at Wachusett Reservoir are 0.4 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Units). In 2007, turbidity was always below both EPA’s standard of 5.0 NTU and the stricter Massachusetts standard of 1.0 NTU, with the highest level at 0.78 NTU. MWRA also tests reservoir water for pathogens - such as fecal coliform, bacteria, viruses, and the parasites Cryptosporidium and Giardia. They can enter the water from animal or human waste. All test results were well within state and federal testing and treatment standards.
Tests in Community Pipes
MWRA and local water departments test 300 to 500 water samples each week for total coliform bacteria. Total coliform bacteria can come from the intestines of warm-blooded animals, or can be found in soil, plants, or other places. Most of the time, these bacteria are not harmful. However, their presence could signal that harmful bacteria from fecal waste may be there as well. The EPA requires that no more than 5% of the samples in a given month may be positive for total coliform. If a water sample tests positive for total coliform, we run more specific tests for E.coli. E.coli is a bacteria found in human and animal fecal waste and may cause illness.
Tests After Treatment
EPA and state regulations also require many water quality tests after treatment to check the water you are drinking. MWRA conducts tens of thousands of tests per year on over 120 contaminants. The bottom line is that the water quality is excellent. All of the levels are below EPA’s allowable limits. A complete list of potential contaminants that we test for is posted on our website.
MWRA water is lead-free when it leaves the reservoirs. MWRA and local pipes that carry the water to your community are made mostly of iron and steel and do not add lead to the water.
What you need to know about lead in your tap water
Lead can get into tap water through pipes in your home, your lead sevice line, lead solder used in plumbing, and some brass fictures. Corrosion or wearing away of lead-based materials can add lead to tap water, especially if water sits for a
What is MWRA doing to lower levels? What can I do?
In 1996, MWRA began adding sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide to adjust the water's pH and buffering capacity. This change has made the water less corrosive, thereby reducing the leaching of lead into drinking water. Lead levels found in sample tests of tap water have dropped by over 80 percent since this treatment change. Local water departments are working to decrease lead corrosion by replacing existing lead service lines.
Also, MWRA is working with city and state governments to get rid of lead in all new household plumbing, particularly faucets. Federal law still allows new faucets to contain as much as 8% lead.
To further decrease your potential exposure, you should always use cold, fresh running water for drinking or cooking and buy plumbing fixtures that have no or low lead levels. Read the labels of any new plumbing fixture closely.
MWRA Meets Lead Standard in 2007
Under EPA rules, each year MWRA and your local water department must test tap water in a sample of homes that are likely to have high lead levels. These are usually homes with lead service lines or lead solder. The EPA rule requires that 9 out of 10, or 90%, of the sampled homes must have lead levels below the
Lead levels in sampled worst case homes have dramatically dropped since 1992. Over the last several years, the results have been below the EPA standard. Results for 452 samples taken in September 2007 are shown in the table, with an overall test score meeting the 90% standard. 9 of 10 houses were below 8.3 ppb, which is below the Action Level of 15 ppb.
Some individual communities had more than one home test above the Action Level for lead. If you live in one of these communities, your town letter will provide you with more information.
What can I do to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water?
Important Information from EPA about Lead
Infants and young children are typically more vulnerable to lead in drinking water than the general population. It is possible that lead levels in your home may be higher than at other homes in the community as a result of materials used in your home’s plumbing. Infants and children who drink water containing lead in excess of the action level could experience delays in their physical or mental development. Children could show slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure. If you are concerned about elevated lead levels in your home’s water, you may wish to have your water tested and flush your tap until after it is cold before using tap water.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FROM EPA AND DEP
Contaminants in Bottled Water and Tap water
Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791) or MWRA (617) 242-5323.
In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the Massachusetts DEP and EPA prescribe regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Massachusetts Department of Public Health regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water which must provide the same protection for public health.
Research and New Regulations
MWRA has been working with EPA and other researchers to define new national drinking water standards by testing for contaminants that are not regulated. Our results will be used with those of other water suppliers to help EPA set regulations if they are necessary. MWRA is also participating with Tufts University on a nationally-funded study testing for Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
DRINKING WATER AND PEOPLE WITH WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEMS
Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and
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Updated July 7, 2008