Onset Water Dept. distributes bottled water

May 11, 2019

Superman doesn't exist, but thankfully, firemen do. This time, they are helping the community withstand an unsafe water event.

Fire department officials started handing out bottled water to residents at the Onset Fire Department headquarters located on 5 East Central Ave.

Every day, each Onset household is eligible to receive one case, which contains twenty-four 500-ml water bottles, until the problem is resolved. By Saturday afternoon, fire officials had efficiently distributed nearly 480 water cases.

“We have a plan of action ahead of time. In case of an emergency, the Fire Department would be a point of distribution for food, water or other supplies that residents need,” said Fire Chief Ray Goodwin.

Problems began a few weeks ago when Onset locals noticed water discoloration.

After testing conducted last Tuesday, Escherichia coli bacteria, also known as E. coli, was found in one of the water samples. Repeat testing on the following day did not find E. coli but did test positive for other bacteria, which led officials to determine that water system could contain potentially harmful pathogens.

“We are doing it in an abundance of caution, we don’t want anyone to get sick,” said Goodwin. “If a new test result comes back clear, we can come back to drinking water without boiling it. If not, we will continue distributing the bottled water.”

According to the notice on the town website, E.coli bacteria “can make you sick, and are especially a concern for people with weakened immune systems.” Those can include babies, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions.

Although Onset residents can safely shower, officials recommended boiling tap water before drinking it. Residents should also throw out any ice, beverages, formula, and uncooked foods that were prepared with water from the public water system on or after May 7.

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

Officials will conduct another testing on Monday, May 13 and will notify the public when the problem is resolved. Until then, the Onset Water Department will continue distributing water.

“Unfortunately, contamination happens all over the place from time to time,” said Goodwin. “Handing out bottles is inconvenient, but we would rather do this than have someone get really ill. We want to make sure everybody is safe and the minute we think there is a problem, we have to respond quickly.”  

On-call firefighter, Marc Granato, said that soon, “things will bo go back to normal." Meanwhile, he advised residents to “check on your neighbors  to make sure they have drinking water.”

On Mother's Day, Sunday, May 12, bottled water will be available for pickup on 5 East Central Ave. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Beginning Monday, May 13, bottled water will be available for pickup between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m.