BELLINGHAM — The public works department has begun flushing water mains and testing hydrant flow at various locations throughout town to determine the water system's ability to provide water for firefighting as well as to prioritize water pipe system upgrades that will be part of a $15.4 million project approved by voters last month.
The water main flushing began Monday and will continue this week in the areas of South Main Street (Elm to Mann Street); Harpin Street; Old Elm Street; Mann Street and the streets off of Mann; Stenson Street; Archer Street; Glen Street; Meadow Street; Lowland Road; Woodland Road; Pulaski (Winter Street to Crooks Corner); Moody Street; Orchard Street; Arthur Street; Winter Street (off Pulaski) Summer Street; and Paine Street and the streets off of Paine Street.
Flushing is scheduled between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. to minimize the amount of dirty water that gets to residents’ taps.
"We anticipate needing 10 nights to complete the hydrant flow testing," said DPW Superintendent Donald DiMartino. "We will proceed as long as we can find nights when the temperature remains above freezing."
DiMartino said the flow test information and analysis of the water system’s ability to provide water for firefighting has been requested by the Insurance Services Office, Inc. in order to update its ratings in Bellingham.
"The DPW is working with the fire department to complete this analysis," he said. "We waited to do this in November because we needed to wait for special town meeting to appropriate funds for the water system master plan update in order to do this testing once."
Last month, voters approved a Proposition 2-1/2 override that will raise taxes in order to pay for a $15.4 million water treatment project.
Article 16 of the 23-article warrant asked voters to finance the project to construct water mains and a water treatment plant, as well as modify existing treatment and pumping systems to treat the town's drinking water through disinfection and reduce iron and manganese in tap water. The project will also ensure the town's wells meet state groundwater guidelines.
With the debt exclusion now approved, taxes will increase for the next 20-plus years, starting in 2014. The tax increase will be $26.75 in fiscal 2014 and 2015; $102.75 in fiscal 2016; and $102.75 every year after that until 2036.
The DPW has outlined the water treatment project in a 138-page report submitted to selectmen last month. Wright-Pierce, an engineering firm hired by the town to study available water sources and research possible treatment methods, recommended, instead, that the town update its current treatment options by modifying the existing water treatment plant on Hartford Road and building a second on Wrentham Road.
Because the town has a chronic iron and manganese problem at several sources, DiMartino said, the flushing of hydrants will very likely cause discolored water at some customers’ buildings. Typically a discolored water condition from hydrant flushing will clear up after a few hours, he said.
"Iron and manganese are considered secondary or aesthetic contaminants. These minerals are not harmful to your health, but they do cause discoloration," he said.
Staining of light-colored clothing is common if laundry is done while the water is discolored. The DPW is urging all Bellingham customers to check their water before doing any laundry. If laundry gets stained, contact the DPW (508) 966-5813. The department gives out special laundry additives that can be added to a wash load to remove these stains.