ADAMS — After being put on notice for coliform bacteria in the town's water supply, Adams Fire District officials say numerous steps have been taken to prevent the problem from recurring.
Water Department employees have combed through any possible source of contamination, officials said, and recent tests for coliform bacteria have come up clean in recent months .
"Total coliform is such a minute thing, but it's there and you shouldn't have it there so we're extremely proactive and that's what we did. It wasn't an easy task," said John Barrett, assistant superintendent of the Fire District, which oversees the town's water supply.
The state Department of Environmental Protection found more than one positive test for total coliform bacteria — a family of bacteria that are not harmful to humans, with a few important exceptions — in the water supply in August and November 2015.
"The November 2015 maximum contaminant level exceedance indicates that [the Adams Fire District] continues to be susceptible to periodic detections of total coliform bacteria," the consent order states.
Under the stipulations of the consent order, the district would be forced to install a new mechanical disinfection system if the water tests for coliform are positive in any two of the next 12 months. It then would have 21 days to install the disinfection system and provide written notice to the DEP that the new system is running.
Positive tests for total coliform bacteria prompt specific, more expensive tests for the harmful bacteria that fall under the coliform umbrella like E. Coli. The water supply has not tested positive for E. Coli, Barrett said.
The water system is not a full-time chlorinating system, so officials oversaw an injection of chlorination into the supply following the positive test results. Probes were placed in water tanks and a variety of tests were conducted to combat the possibility of contamination due to a process known as thermal stratification inside the water tanks.
The town's water supply is fed by three wells, which are between 80 and 100 feet below the ground, on East View Drive in Cheshire.
The district has taken a number of measures to ensure the cleanliness of the water supply, including completely disassembling and cleaning one of its three wells, Barrett said.
"We pump millions of gallons, and we've 60 miles of transmission lines, so it takes time to figure out what's going on," Barrett said, adding that the supply had not tested positive for coliform with consistency prior to the end of 2015.
"It's a real shot in the dark at trying to find out exactly what it is," he said.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.