July 5 2018

Emergency Watering Ban in Effect - Here's Why

By: Rich Hosford

The Town of Burlington, citing approval by the Board of Selectmen during its June 25th meeting in the event of an emergency, has implemented a full outdoor watering ban that will be in effect until further notice.


Outdoor Watering Restrictions consists of:


- Irrigation of lawns via sprinklers or automatic irrigation systems


- Washing of exterior building surfaces, parking lots, driveways or sidewalks, except as necessary to apply surface treatments such as paint, preservatives, stucco, pavement or cement.


As reported on BNEWS, there was a planned outdoor watering ban scheduled for the week of July 16 that was deemed necessary to perform cleaning of the sanitation basin at the Mill Pond treatment plant. So why is there a ban in effect now?


DPW Director John Sanchez told BNEWS in an interview shortly after the ban was announced that it comes down to unforeseen repairs and the numbers.


He said that work is currently being done on a faulty filter at the Vine Brook Treatment Plant. During that work the contractor found additional issues with some hatches and other equipment that need to be addressed immediately to keep the plant operational in the years ahead.


Sanchez said that has reduced the output of the plant from 2 million gallons per day (already down from its peak of 3 million before the detection of 1,4 dioxane in 2013) to 1.5 million gallons per day. The Mill Pond maximum output is 3 million gallons per day, meaning the town can, as of July 5, produce 4.5 million gallons per day from the two sources.


Coupled with that is an increase in demand seen this year over last year. Sanchez said that during the peak summer hours in 2017 the town used roughly 4.2 million gallons per day. So far in 2018 the demand has been higher, sitting at around 4.7 million gallons per day, higher than what can now be produced.


“I don’t know what’s going on this year, the demand has been so much higher,” he said.


Sanchez said another concern is that given the current sediment build-up in the sanitation basin at Mill Pond the town can’t continue to keep that plant running at full capacity for very much longer without first having it cleaned.


“The more sediment that builds up in the sanitation basin, the harder it is to maintain water quality and you have to reduce production,” he explained.


Since the repairs at Vine Brook will delay the scheduled July 16 maintenance work until either July 23 or even July 30 the town must make an emergency connection through Lexington to the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) to ease the pressure on Mill Pond.


In order to make that connection the state mandates a Water Emergency must be declared and a minimum requirement of that declaration is a full outdoor watering ban must be put in place.


Sanchez said it is unclear at this time when the watering ban will be lifted, but that it will be in place at least until maintenance is completed at Mill Pond. However, he warned, if drought conditions materialize or there are other unforeseen issues at either of the plants, it could be in place for an extended period of time.


Finally, the penalty for violating the ban include a warning for the first violation. A second violation carries a fine of $50 and each subsequent violation carries a fine of $100. These fines are non-criminal dispositions.


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