Becket freshwater spring closed after coliform detected

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This story and its headline have been corrected to reflect that coliform was detected in a Becket spring.

BECKET — The town's freshwater spring has been nourishing locals for about 100 years, but that's over, at least for now.

Under orders from the Department of Environmental Protection, the town made the Route 20 (Chester Road) spring by the Cheshire border inaccessible Wednesday by putting concrete around the spring — a small metal pipe jutting from a hillside — and rocks over the spout.

The move became necessary, Town Administrator William Caldwell said, when coliform was detected in the water. Becket residents voted in January not to buy a filtering system that would allow for the spring to stay open.

"We've got the consent order from DEP, and we've gotten an OK from all the property owners," Caldwell said. "You can't go and fill up there anymore."

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The spring is inaccessible, but that could change over the next five years, Caldwell said.

The DEP gave Becket two choices in how to address the spring if residents did not want to filter the water: declassify the spring as a drinking water source and make it inaccessible to people, or make the water inaccessible but allow for an interested person or group to install a filter and reopen the spring within the next five years.

"It leaves things open," Caldwell said, "but the town will be done with it on our end."

There's a bit of mystery around the Becket spring: No one knows how long it has been there, who installed the pipe or where the source of the water is. What's in the water is less ambiguous. In 2018, the DEP found coliform in the water four times. Coliform is an indicator for the presence of E.coli, which can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain and nausea. The DEP ordered the town to close the spring or keep it open and install an ultraviolet filter. In January, at a special town meeting attended by about 200 residents, voters rejected two articles meant to save the spring.

The cost to install a filtering system, according to the town meeting articles, is $85,000 up front and about $2,500 annually for maintenance.

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini, 413-629-4621.


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