Brown water continues to haunt homes

Cristiana Anjo photoCristiana Anjo of Andover posted this photo on Facebook last summer of brown water flowing out of her tap.

Residents are continuing to see brown, murky water flow out of their taps at home, and while the long-term solution of water main replacement is expected to take years to complete, the town is working to address the issue short-term.

Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said the hot weather in recent weeks has increased water usage in town, ultimately leading to more complaints of brown water because the old pipes can't handle the influx.

Flanagan said the town used roughly 11 million gallons of water on Saturday, July 27. On an average summer day, when temperatures aren't creeping into the upper-90s, he said the town uses roughly 9 million gallons.

"It's hot and people are using more water," he said. "The demand is high."

Last week, frustrated residents took to social media sites like Facebook to express frustrations over the brown water flowing out of their taps at home. People expressed concerns over the safety of drinking the water and using it to wash dishes.

Flanagan said the town has mapped out the areas experiencing brown water and is flushing them out when needed. He said the areas that have been flushed have no more brown water.

"We also confirmed that the water leaving the plant is clear," Flanagan said. "It's picking up sediments as it travels through the system because of the increased demand and the age of the water mains."

Town officials said the brown water residents saw last summer was also due to iron and manganese sediment in the water system that was stirred up by heavy demand on the water supply.

In December 2018, the town engaged consulting company Woodard and Curran to address the water quality issue and formulate a solution to fix it. The consultants conducted raw and in-plant sampling, and evaluated the effectiveness of the town's flushing program.

The long-term solution to the problem, however, is the replacement of the unlined cast-iron water mains, which Flanagan said is going to take years. There are more than 80 miles of water main that need to be replaced in town, with a goal of that work being completed in 15 years.

Roughly 11.9 miles of the unlined cast-iron water main that must be replaced is under the roads impacted by last year's natural gas disaster. That work will be done during the four years of road restoration, officials said.

The town will spend $6 million on water main replacement the first four years of work, and $5 million per year the following 11 years. Since 2014, the town has replaced 8.5 miles of pipe at a cost of $7 million.

What to do if you experience discolored water

According to the town's website, these are the steps residents should take if they see discolored water in their homes:

• Run cold water to help flush the system. Running an outside spigot, basement sink, or bath tub can help clear the water lines surrounding your home.

• Determine if the discoloration is isolated to cold or hot water.

• Take note of the time and date that the discoloration was noticed.

• If you have experienced discoloration while washing clothing, the Water Department supplies a product that will help remove any discoloration. This product can be picked up at 5 Campanelli Drive from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• If discoloration is still evident, call the Department of Public Works Water Division at 978-623-8860.

• Residents can also report discolored water at


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