Boil order lifted in Marion, Rochester as officials continue search for E. coli source

Oct 19, 2021

Marion and Rochester residents can breathe a sigh of relief — and pour themselves a refreshing glass of tap water — as the boil order issued on Oct. 6 has finally been lifted.

After nearly two weeks on the boil water order, Marion officials announced in a statement released on Tuesday, Oct. 19 that the problem has been resolved and the town’s water is once again safe to drink.

Town water officials did recommend, however, that residents run their taps to flush out any water that may be left in the pipes from before the order was lifted. That includes appliances connected to water lines, such as fridges. Devices with filters should have their filters replaced.

A full list of precautions to take after a boil order is lifted can be found here.

The lifting of the boil order for Marion and Rochester followed a corresponding action taken in Mattapoisett on Oct. 15. Marion and Rochester had to wait a few days longer to allow chlorination to reach the outer extremities of the system, as total coliform was still showing up in samples taken from those towns on Oct. 14.

While Fairhaven, Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester water is all treated at the same facility, valves and separate lines cut off flows in some spots. This creates closed systems in Fairhaven, which services some Mattapoisett residents; Marion, which services some Rochester residents; and Mattapoisett. Because the source of chlorine is located in Mattapoisett, it took longer for the chemical to reach the extremities of the Marion distribution system. Fairhaven’s system operates on a completely different set of pipes.

A boil order is still in effect in Fairhaven where samples collected on Oct. 18 showed trace amounts of total coliform still present in two of the 16 samples taken from around the town. Mattapoisett residents who are connected to the Fairhaven water system should also continue boiling their water until further notice.

Officials are still searching for the source of the E. Coli, but think that a Fairhaven well that tested positive for E. Coli in September and was subsequently taken offline could have caused issues for the whole district.

“In the month that’s elapsed, we’ve done some remedial work,” Fairhaven Water Superintendent Vinnie Furtado said at an Oct. 19 Water District Commissioners meeting.

He said that a third party was hired to investigate the compromised well, and found a weld breach, where they suspected E. Coli entered the system.

But Mattapoisett Water Superintendent Henri Renauld said the commissioners aren’t content to simply take that answer as final.

“You can’t hang your hat on something like this,” he said. Still, he added, “I don’t think you can ever be 100% sure because there are too many things that can happen.”

Renauld assured that he and other officials are working to keep the water in Marion and Mattapoisett as clean as possible. Furtado said Fairhaven will continue to test its water, and hopes to have the boil order lifted by the end of the week.

Total coliform, like E. coli, is a bacterial indicator that can suggest that fecal waste is present, however, it is considered a less specific indicator because it can also be triggered by bacteria from less dangerous sources like soil and vegetation.