Mattapoisett water safe to drink, other towns must boil

Oct 15, 2021

Mattapoisett residents are free to use water from the town system, but Marion and Rochester remain under the boil water order.

A boil water order was implemented in the Tri-Town and Fairhaven on Oct. 6, after E. coli was discovered in water in all four towns of the Mattapoisett River Valley Water District. After three consecutive tests from Oct. 12 to 14 absent of E. coli and total coliform, Mattapoisett is the first of those communities to be freed from the boil water order. 

E. coli is a type of bacteria that indicates water may be contaminated with human or animal waste, potentially leading to illness. Symptoms can include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and headaches. 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 that can also be triggered by bacteria from less dangerous sources like soil and vegetation.

While Mattapoisett’s water was free of both total coliform and E. coli in samples taken Oct. 12, 13 and 14, samples taken from Marion water — which also reaches some Rochester residents — on Oct. 14 showed total coliform. Fairhaven tested positive for total coliform in tests taken all three days. Mattapoisett residents connected to Fairhaven’s system are not yet free from the boil water order, and will need to follow the guidance of the Fairhaven Water Department.

“We were completely clean on all samples on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Marion Department of Public Works Director Nathaniel Mufano said at a Mattapoisett River Valley Water District Commissioners meeting on Oct. 15. But the presence of total coliform in Oct. 14 samples likely contributed to the state’s refusal to lift the boil water order for Marion and Rochester on Oct. 15.

“Because of the coliform I believe that’s the hesitancy of the state to lift the ban,” Fairhaven Public Works Department Superintendent Vinnie Furtado said.

Typically, Mattapoisett Water Superintendent Henri Renauld said, three clean samples will prompt the Department of Environmental Protection to lift a boil water order.

He added that while Mattapoisett’s boil water order has been lifted, the town will likely test the water weekly, and will continue to chlorinate the system. Mattapoisett residents are advised to flush their lines to remove any contaminated water from their pipes before resuming use of unboiled water.

Fairhaven and Marion are each continuing to collect samples, and both could see the boil water order lifted as early as Saturday, Oct. 16.

“It’s all predicated on two things,” Furtado said. “The results collected today and the decision of the DEP.”

For now, residents of Marion and Fairhaven, alongside those in Rochester who are connected to Marion’s water system, will have to keep boiling their water and wait for results.

“I’m crossing all my fingers for you,” Renauld said. “Believe me.”