March 24 2020

Selectmen Approve Full Outdoor Watering Ban In Response to COVID-19 Concerns

By: Rich Hosford

Unless things change the start of the growing season will be done without the use of watering systems. 


The Board of Selectmen voted 5-0 to impose a full outdoor watering ban during the meeting Monday night in an effort to maintain the town’s water supply in the event that COVID-19 leads to Water Department employees being out of work.  


The watering ban vote was at the recommendation of Department of Public Works Director John Sanchez who explained his reasoning in a letter that was ready by Town Administrator Paul Sagarino. 


Sanchez started by saying that even though the town is in the process of connecting to the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) to supplement the water supply that process is still in the works. 


“Although Town Meeting authorized the Town to join the MWRA in order to supplement our water supply, the environmental approval process is not complete, and the Town is not yet connected to the MWRA water supply,” he said.  “Until that process is complete and supplemental water from the MWRA is available, the Town will continue to provide water service only from its existing water supply.” 


In the summertime, when the water use is high, Sanchez those two plants need to be constantly manned in order to keep up with demand. 


“Since neither facility is designed to supply 100% of the water use during the warm weather months, both facilities must therefore be staffed 24 hours a day in order to supply water to the town distribution system,” he said. 


The concern, Sanchez said, is that if people get sick they won’t be able to keep up that schedule. 


“Due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic, the Town must anticipate difficulties with staffing both facilities 24 hours a day,” he said. “Reductions in personnel during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic will force us to reduce staffing and shifts at the two treatment facilities. Due to those anticipated personnel shortages, the Town cannot operate both treatment facilities 24 hours a day and therefore very likely cannot supply enough water to meet the usual demand during the warm weather months.”


So by banning the use of watering systems, which makes a big difference in the warm weather, the town can use one of the systems if necessary. 


“With reduced demand on the water distribution system (with an outdoor watering restrictions in place), the Town anticipates that only one treatment facility may be needed during these months,” Sanchez said. “Accordingly, the Town is implementing this Full Outdoor Watering Restriction so that its staff can continue to provide adequate and sufficient water service for necessary and critical uses by domestic, institutional and commercial consumers and so that we can prevent any disruptions in service.”


Also, if the town does need to have an emergency connection to the MWRA through a neighboring community like Lexington, state law requires that a town have a watering ban in place to do so. 


The Outdoor Watering Ban prohibits: 


- 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. 


The penalty for violating the ban includes 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.  


During the meeting Sagarino said that if the situation changes it is possible the ban may be lifted and the Even/Odd watering system would be back in place. 


Finally, members of the board said they know that watering bans are not popular with residents but felt this was necessary due to the circumstances everyone is facing.


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