Following repairs, Greenfield updates public on water main breaks, assures safety

  • Greenfield Department of Public Works Director Marlo Warner II updates the public on recent water main breaks during a press conference Thursday at City Hall. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner updates the public on recent water main breaks during a press conference Thursday at City Hall. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/5/2021 2:00:18 PM

GREENFIELD — The mayor and Department of Public Works director said repairs have been made to the seven large water main breaks that occurred over the last week and reiterated that the city’s water is safe to drink during a press conference Thursday morning.

Other minor repairs to fix smaller main or household leaks are still needed, but DPW Director Marlo Warner II said the situation has “stabilized.”

“We had a quiet weekend, very quiet weekend, which is good,” Warner said. “I’m here today because we got our hands wrapped around it.”

Both Warner and Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner emphasized multiple times the city’s water is safe to drink and any discolorations are harmless. Warner said if residents’ water initially comes out discolored, then they should run their faucet for three to five minutes before calling the DPW.

“I stress again, our drinking water was safe when this happened,” Warner said. “It’s been safe throughout and we’re constantly testing. We have a very tough regimen of testing our drinking water.”

The water main breaks occurred last week when water samples from the Rocky Mountain water tank tested positive for a harmless type of coliform bacteria. Warner said a positive coliform result triggers further testing because its presence means other harmful bacteria like E. coli could be present.

“The coliform test is strictly a trigger for us to do what we need to do to ensure our drinking water system is safe,” Warner said. “I can’t stress that enough.”

Further testing proved there was no harmful bacteria in the water supply, but the tank was isolated from the main system as a precaution. The city was also working with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which also recommended isolating the tank.

“We’re always proactive, we always take public health and safety in regard. Rule No. 1,” Warner said. “I wasn’t willing to gamble or roll the dice on that.”

When the Rocky Mountain tank was turned off on July 29, it created a “water hammer,” which Warner described as conflicting high and low pressure within the pipes that can cause breaks.

Warner said the first break, on Arch Street, was the most “significant” because one-third of the city had little to no water pressure and there was no fire protection until surrounding fire departments brought their tankers.

“I want to state, every break or leak we’ve had since Arch Street, there has been no loss of water pressure,” Warner said. “I think that’s important and that’s why Arch Street was so significant.”

By Friday, there was a break at the intersection of Main and Federal streets, 1 Main St. and on Crescent Street. An additional break occurred early Monday morning on West Street as well.

Warner said it will take a “couple of weeks” for his team to repair every last leak around the city, as their highest priority is getting the system back to full capacity.

“We want to get the tank back online,” Warner said, “and we want to get our system back completely online.”

He expects the Rocky Mountain tank to be refilled and tested by early next week.

Wedegartner said Greenfield’s infrastructure is aging and the city is always focusing on maintaining it.

“I want to remind people that we have 103 miles of water and sewer mains in the city of Greenfield. More than a third of those are 70 to 100 years old,” Wedegartner said. “Water and sewer infrastructure, repair and replacement, is front and center every year in our capital budget. … Don’t think that we are not paying attention to our infrastructure because we are.”

She said undertaking all of these repairs comes with a high price tag and again highlighted the need for the federal government to provide funding for infrastructure.

“That said, to do it all at once will be very expensive. This is why I am stressing how important it is that Congress get its act together and pass an infrastructure bill,” Wedegartner said, “so that communities like Greenfield all over the country … can be assured that their infrastructure will get paid for, repaired and replaced.”

Both Warner and Wedegartner said the true financial impact is unknown right now because the situation is still developing.

“I love to give facts, but I hate to throw out numbers that I don’t have a clue on,” Warner said. “We’d have to evaluate the whole system. … It’s a lot of money.”

Wedegartner said she is unaware of any emergency state funding sources and these repairs will come out of this year’s operating budget.

“To my knowledge, we don’t have that figure,” Wedegartner said after the press conference. “Certainly the DPW workers didn’t work for free. … (Greenfield will) plan for those repairs. It will be expensive.”

Both officials railed against misinformation on social media and urged citizens to go to the official city website for the most up-to-date and accurate information when these emergencies happen.

“Go to the people who know the answers,” Wedegartner said. “Facebook is not the source.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.




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