HANSON — There was some disagreement on how the discoloration happens, but the Water Department has been asked by its board of commissioners to open a gate at High and Main streets — which directs water toward the train station —for at least a week to determine if it will clear manganese and iron deposits from water mains along three streets in town.
The idea is to direct clean water from the tank toward Hanson’s Main, Reed and South streets, where continuing problems with discolored water at their homes along those streets motivated more than a dozen residents to attend a Board of Water Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 22, demanding a solution.
Residents were asked to return in two weeks to let the board know if the opened gate helps improve their water quality. They say the water pressure has been fine — and some left the meeting more dissatisfied than when they arrived.
“When everything’s running during the daytime, there’s a lot of water moving through the pipe,” Commissioner Don Howard said. “When everybody shuts down their house and the faucets and goes to bed, the tank fills up … the sediment sets in [dips in] the pipe. The next day, when you start using the water, it turbulates it up and it runs into the pipe and I think that’s what’s happening.”
Flow vs pipes
Water Department Assistant Superintendent Gerald Davis said he believed the problem was more likely due to the 12-inch main from Main Street connecting to another 12-inch main on South Street via an eight-inch pipe along Reed Street. He also argued more frequent flushing on the mains would also help.
But Howard maintained the gates were the likely source of the problem.
Residents, some of whom are thinking about selling their homes, voiced frustration at the expense of replacing water heaters, filters and clothing ruined by the dark brown water.
Assessor Lee Gamache, of 819 Main Street, said the situation is already hurting the real estate market in Hanson.
“If it was just one incident, I think we’d understand,” she said.
Her husband Joe asked what, if any, long-term plan there is to address the problem.
“You talk about low water costs, well it’s costing us a lot, not just for water, but we have a new hot water heater [and we’re] probably going to have to replace it,” he said, adding that they have also had to replace clothing. “There’s no real warning so financially, it’s been a burden constantly replacing things because of it.”
A couple from Gorwin Drive said they feel the problem is “creeping” in their direction.
Joe Gamache supported closing the gate in conjunction with a maintenance program including more frequent pipe flushing until pipes can be replaced.
“We’ve got to try something because we’re not going to get … pipe replaced tomorrow like we all want,” he said. “We can revisit this in a year. If we don’t see any kind of improvement, you’re going to see a ‘For Sale’ sign in my yard.”
Howard said Hanson’s 100-year-old water system now consists of three different types of water pipes in the ground, much of them cast iron.
“That pipe is the same pipe that Brockton and several other area towns have in,” he said. “The problem with it is the manganese and iron builds up in the cast iron [pipes] over a period of years.”
New pipes installed are required to be cement-lined.
“If we could to that in all of our cast iron pipes in town, we’d eliminate a lot of our problems, but the Water Department doesn’t have the money,” he said. “So we’re trying to keep the water flowing.”
More frequent flushing of pipes is not possible because of mandatory Mass. DEP water conservation regulations, Davis said. Howard agreed, noting the only flushing done in the past five years was done this past spring to try to reduce the iron and manganese deposits.
“I’m hoping and planning that we can do it again this fall,” Howard said, noting sediment sits in the pipes until a heavy use emergency such as a fire or water main break disturbs it. The July 5 fire at JJ’s Pub and an Aug. 20 water main break on Andrew Lane both caused that to happen.
Work being done by the Brockton water department on Main Street Monday, Aug. 27 was to Brockton pipes and should have no effect on Hanson water, according to the Hanson Water Department.
“How to control it? I have no way of knowing, I’ll be honest with you,” he said. “I’ve worked with water since 1957. We don’t want to raise the price of water.”
Howard also said the Water Department is trying to keep water prices down, but residents attending the meeting said they would be willing to pay more for clear water and that they are already spending a lot to resolve problems the sediment causes.
They are already buying water.
“We buy so much water,” a woman said. “I won’t drink it or cook with it or give it to the pets.”
Some of the residents said they don’t even like to shower in it.
“I’ll pay more for clean water,” said a South Street resident who said he would not have bought his house had he been advised of the water issue. “We’re talking in circles here. What’s the issue? What’s the resolution? What’s the cost? What’s the time frame? That’s what I came here to hear.”
He had serious doubts that 9,000 voters in town would back higher bills to help 1,000 people having problems. Howard replied that it is hard to get a quorum of 100 voters at Town Meeting.
“We don’t want to pay anything for dirty water,” the resident said.
Commissioner Gil Amado said he was a member of the commission because, as a South Street resident, he is affected, too.
I’m frustrated myself,” Amado said. “I’m on this board to help make things better. The water has been better, but we’ve had so many issues … water follows the path of least resistance and, when it starts flowing, it’s taking whatever’s in that pipe with it.”
“With money it could be cleaned,” the South Street resident said.
Another resident said they need to hear a timetable, too.
“What we keep hearing is you have a plan, you have a plan, you have a plan, but there’s no definite date,” she said. “There’s no definite solution. It’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to work on it, but it’s going to take 20 years or it’s going to take 10 years.’”
Call with problems
In the meantime, Davis urged residents to call the Water Department when problems occur — no matter how often — instead of going on Facebook.
“People read on Facebook that someone doesn’t have water, everybody runs to their faucet and then they turn the water on,” he said. “Don’t do that! Because, if there’s a water main break, you’re bringing all the dirty water into your house.”
Howard said water should be turned off when there is a main break.
When animals depend on water during a break, Davis said owners should also call. During the last main break, Water Department staff members provided water to horses on a farm in the affected area.
When lines are flushed, he can also plan to do it where people have animals or are served by a cast iron line, the timing of the flushing can be adjusted.
“This year alone it’s been so minimal, only until we disturb the system,” Davis said.
“I don’t think people are calling,” another resident said.
“If we know where the major complaints are, we can target that area. … I don’t care if you call everyday.”
Howard initially said the pipe-replacement plan could take 20 years, but then backed away from that estimate.
When Hanson painted the inside of the water tank last summer, it cost about $335,000 to purchase water from Brockton during those three months. The Water Department budget is $1.5 million of that, another $35,000 was required in electricity costs to pump the Brockton water.
New wells being put in on East Washington Street will help a lot of the cost and discoloration problems, Howard said. A pipe replacement program will be introduced after a new water tank is put in.
A couple who moved into their 300 South St. home in 2006, however said they are already preparing to sell their house because of the ongoing water problems.
“I know a lot of people have had problems since the water tank project,” the woman said, noting they have had to replace three pressure leak valves in three years because of the sediment. “We’ve had it since 2006 on a regular basis and it has increased.”
The residents said they were still having problems three days after the water main break.
Davis said any fluctuation in pressure would make water dirty.