Onset water customers must boil water before drinking

May 10, 2019

Editor’s note: The boil order was lifted on May 15.

The Onset Water Department has announced that all customers should boil water before using it, or use bottled water.

People should not drink the water without boiling it first. Bring all water to a boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice.

At the moment, the cause of bacteria occurrence remains undetermined. The Onset Fire Department Superintendent, Kevin Sampson, suggested it could have been caused by a variety of factors, including increased water usage.

“We are a big seasonal community. We get a lot of people coming in town, a lot of water is getting turned on,” said Sampson. “Typically, water would be going in one certain way. But when you begin opening fire hydrants in the town, it changes the direction of the waters, which can stir sediments in the internal system, so that might have been a part of the problem.”

Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Discard any ice, beverages, formula, and uncooked foods that were prepared with water from the public water system on or after Tuesday, May 7.

Bottled water will be available for all Onset residents starting tomorrow morning, Saturday May 11th, from 8am to 8pm at the Onset Fire Department located at 5 East Central Avenue, and will continue to be made available each day afterward from 8am to 8pm until the issue is resolved.

Six samples of water tested on May 7 contained coliform bacteria and one sample contained E. coli. After being notified of these results on May 8, the department contacted the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. On May 9, the department collected repeat samples and sent them for testing. On May 10, the lab reported that nine of the 18 samples tested positive for total coliform and negative for E. coli.

According to Sampson, the Onset Water Department conducts water testing every single month. The department will test the water again on Monday, May 13.

E. coli can make people sick, and is more dangerous for people with weakened immune systems. Contamination can occur when increased run-off enters the drinking water source, due to a break in the distribution system (pipes), or following a failure in the water treatment process.

To remedy the problem, the water department began temporary chlorination on May 8 and will continue to provide temporary chlorination until the problem is resolved. The department has also begun flushing in the areas where the contaminated samples were taken.

“We are conducting chlorination, we have been doing hydrant flushing last night and we will continue flush today, tomorrow, and hopefully that will get rid of this problem,” said Sampson.

The department will notify the public when the problem is resolved, which officials estimate will be resolved by Friday, May 17.

For more information, contact the Onset Fire District Water Department at 508-295-0605. General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791

The department asks the public to share this information with others who drink this water.