Timeline of Adams water problems
ADAMS — The following steps led to Thursday's boil-water order affecting customers of the Adams Fire District's water system. All municipal water in Adams is drawn from three underground wells in Cheshire.
Monday: Water samples were taken at a water storage tank at 131 East Hoosac St. and driven to Hatfield for analysis at Howard Labs. It takes 24 hours for labs to culture samples and produce results.
Tuesday: The district received a report that a water sample taken Monday from the tank tested positive for E. coli, which is considered a fecal indicator, and also for "total coliform" bacteria.
A fecal indicator is defined as a microbe that, when present, suggests that the water might be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Total coliform bacteria is a more general indication of possible contamination but generally does not lead in itself to a boil order.
Additional samples were taken, including at the East Hoosac Street water tank and at two residences on the east side of town that are supplied with water directly from the tank that tested positive for E. coli.
A sample was also taken from a well station on East View Drive in Cheshire that supplies water to the whole town.
The samples were sent to Hatfield for evaluation.
Wednesday: Results from Tuesday's sampling came back late in the afternoon. The samples at the residences tested positive for total coliform bacteria and negative for E. coli.
But tests for total coliform and E. coli from the 131 East Hoosac St. tank were both negative.
That means that the system did not show a positive E. coli test on consecutive-day sampling from the water tank.
"In all reality, you don't have a confirmed E. coli," said John Barrett, the superintendent of the Adams Fire District.
Nonetheless, at 5:24 p.m., Barrett received an email from the Department of Environmental Protection, telling the district to implement a boil-order notice.
The district received a verbal instruction from the DEP to begin chlorination. Barrett stayed late at work with his staff Wednesday to prepare to implement that.
Thursday: At 4 a.m., Barrett began summoning town officials to an emergency meeting at 7:30 a.m. to discuss the situation, gathering at an oval table in the district's 3 Columbia St. headquarters.
"You have to have a meeting so they all know what's going to happen," Barrett said of fellow town officials. He also addressed several minor factual errors that he had found in the DEP's official boil-order notice.
At around 9 a.m., the district began distributing the boil notice. Copies were hand-delivered to locations around town, posted on the town's website and distributed through social media outlets. A "reverse 911" call went out to residents with word of the order.
The town began flushing the water system and adding chlorine to disinfect it from possible contamination. Normally, because the system uses underground water supplies, no chlorination is used.
Five water samples were drawn. The samples could not be taken until in-house testing showed Thursday that the amount of chlorine in the water system was adequate to fight the presence of bacteria. The samples were driven to Hatfield but arrived after the lab closed.
Friday: The samples taken Thursday were driven back to the Hatfield lab and delivered, with results expected Saturday morning.
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