7Investigates: Brown tap water concerning Bridgewater residents

BRIDGEWATER, MASS. (WHDH) - Sarah MacDonald says there’s already so much to worry about with a newborn. Her daughter Sophie was just born in October.

“We definitely want to protect her at all costs,” says Sarah.

She says what she shouldn’t have to worry about, is the water in her new home.

But the yellow, murky, sometimes brown water coming from her tap, has her concerned.

“I’m horrified, I don’t want my child to get sick. Basically, I’m not comfortable washing or feeding her anything to do with the town water,” says Sarah. “We’re having to buy water to wash bottles, to make formula.”

Sarah moved into her Town of Bridgewater house in June and says her water’s turned brown 7 or 8 times.

“Especially the first week home from the hospital, we had nasty horrible brown water for several days,” says Sarah.

Sarah says even running the water doesn’t help, telling 7 News, “I’ve let the water run. Every hour for 20 minutes. You know I’m paying the water bill, the town is not going to credit me for it being dirty.”

Sarah isn’t alone. When she posted her concerns on a town Facebook page, dozens starting responding with similar problems.

One resident posted a photo of what looks like almost chocolate-colored water in her tub. Another posted a picture of a water filter caked in what looks like brown goo.

“Nobody wants to drink it, nobody wants to bathe in it, you definitely don’t want to cook in it. We don’t want to be another Flint, Michigan, which is what some of the townspeople joke about,” says Sarah.

What’s in the water?

Bridgewater Town Manager Michael Dutton says he wasn’t surprised when we showed him the pictures.

“One of the challenges we face all over the Southeastern part of the state, are high concentrations of iron, high concentrations of manganese,” says Dutton.

He says those minerals (iron and manganese) are building up inside the town’s water pipes, making the water thick and dark. The discoloration is especially prevalent during seasonal hydrant flushing when the sediment is stirred up.

“The reason we flush is because over time the iron and manganese will build up in the pipes to the point where it actually stifles, it’s sort of like an hourglass, stifles the flow of water,” says Dutton.

“That said, it’s absolutely safe to drink,” says Dutton.

Possible Health Concerns

The EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection also considers the water safe, by their standards. Mass DEP tells 7News Bridgewater, “does not have a manganese problem.”   https://www.mass.gov/doc/manganese-in-drinking-water-typical-questions-and-answers-for-consumers-0/download

But that isn’t clear to everyone.

“Above certain levels, this is going to be a health concern for certain groups of people, notably pregnant women or children,” says Doctor Tasha Stoiber. She works for the Environmental Working Group, a global non-profit.

Scientists/experts at EWG use a stricter manganese health standard, following guidelines out of Minnesota.

Looking at Bridgewater’s posted/public data, Doctor Stoiber says she found concerning levels in some of the water.

“So manganese above these levels can have an impact on nerve development in children, meaning learning problems or IQ or memory,” says Doctor Stoiber.

Doctor Stoiber says she recommends buying a water filter that specializes in removing minerals.

Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral but an excess could adversely affect health (we’ve posted standards down below).

The DEP does recommend that if you have questions or health concerns about how much manganese you may be ingesting, to consult your doctor or pediatrician.

What the town is doing:

Bridgewater has the Carver’s Pond Water Treatment Plant, where the minerals are filtered out daily and monitored.

But the treatment plant only purifies the water for about 50 percent of the homes.

“We are right at the cusp of adding another water treatment plant,” says Dutton.

That treatment plant isn’t expected to be open and operating until the end of 2020. The water department says they have been replacing infrastructure and water mains, but it costs money.

Right now, Bridgewater is only required to test for the minerals, and report their findings once a year, but manganese is a part of what the DEP considers “secondary contaminants.”

For Sarah, that’s not enough.

She wants Bridgewater to test for the minerals every month, in every part of town, and post all their findings online.

“Like I said, I have a newborn. I don’t want my baby getting sick because of poor water quality,” says MacDonald.

The town’s water department says they will come to your home and test for iron and manganese if you ask.

BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 05/04/2018 F 0 GP WELLS #1,2,4A & 5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 06/28/2017 F 0.182 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 05/19/2017 F 0.121 WELL #8 & WELL #9 (09G, 10G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 05/19/2017 F 0.127 WELL #3 & WELL #6 (02G,05G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 05/19/2017 F 0 GP WELLS #1,2,4A & 5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 06/08/2016 F 0.178 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/08/2016 F 0 GP WELLS #1,2,4A & 5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/07/2016 F 0.127 WELL #8 & WELL #9 (09G, 10G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/07/2016 F 0.087 WELL #3 & WELL #6 (02G,05G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/12/2016 F 0.005 GP WELLS #1,2,4A & 5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 10/08/2015 F 0.07 GP WELLS #1,2,4A & 5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 10/08/2015 F 0.212 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 10/07/2015 F 0.099 WELL #3 & WELL #6 (02G,05G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 10/07/2015 F 0.115 WELL #8 & WELL #9 (09G, 10G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/29/2015 F 0.083 WELL #3 & WELL #6 (02G,05G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/07/2015 F 0 GP WELLS #1,2,4A & 5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/07/2015 F 0.179 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/02/2015 F 0.108 WELL #8 & WELL #9 (09G, 10G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/07/2015 F 0.121 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/07/2015 F 0.117 WELL #3 & WELL #6 (02G,05G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/06/2015 F 0.224 GP WELL #9
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/06/2015 F 0.042 GP WELL #8
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/06/2015 F 0.118 WELL #8 & WELL #9 (09G, 10G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 03/09/2015 F 0 WELLS #1,2,4 & 5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 03/05/2015 F 0.198 WELL #8 & WELL #9 (09G, 10G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 03/05/2015 F 0.072 WELL #3 & WELL #6 (02G,05G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 03/05/2015 F 0.118 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 02/26/2015 F 0.123 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 02/26/2015 F 0.251 WELL #3 & WELL #6 (02G,05G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 02/26/2015 F 0.119 WELL #8 & WELL #9 (09G, 10G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 02/19/2015 F 0.171 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/22/2015 F 0.128 WELL #8 & WELL #9 (09G, 10G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/22/2015 F 0.208 GP WELL #9
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/22/2015 F 0.063 WELL #3 & WELL #6 (02G,05G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/22/2015 F 0.016 GP WELL #8
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/22/2015 F 0.187 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 09/12/2014 F 0.113 WELL #8 & WELL #9 (09G, 10G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 05/27/2014 F 0 WELLS #1,2,4 & 5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/30/2014 F 0.076 GP WELL #9
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/30/2014 F 0.102 WELL #8 & WELL #9 (09G, 10G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/30/2014 F 0.121 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/30/2014 F 0.102 GP WELL #8
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/30/2014 F 0.078 WELL #3 & WELL #6 (02G,05G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 02/12/2014 F 0.005 WELLS #1,2,4 & 5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 02/11/2014 R 0.42 WELL #1
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/30/2014 F 0.098 GP WELL #9
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 R 0.064 WELL #6 – RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 F 0.012 GP WELL #8
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 R 1.06 WELL #2
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 F 0.086 WELL #3 & WELL #6 (02G,05G)
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 R 0.422 WELL #4
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 F 0.032 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 R 0.164 WELL #10A – RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 R 0.649 WELL #5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 R 0.016 GP WELL 8 –  RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 R 0.123 WELL #3
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 01/27/2014 R 0.156 WELL #10B – RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/25/2013 R 0.03 WELL #1
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/25/2013 R 0.993 WELL #2
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/25/2013 R 0.111 WELL #10A – RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/25/2013 R 0.006 GP WELL 8 –  RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/25/2013 R 0.367 WELL #4
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/25/2013 R 0.613 WELL #5A
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/25/2013 R 0.208 GP WELL 9 – RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/25/2013 R 0.027 WELL #6 – RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/25/2013 R 0.174 WELL #10B – RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 07/25/2013 R 0.094 WELL #3
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/12/2012 R 0.082 WELL #10A – RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/10/2012 R 0.029 WELL #6 – RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/10/2012 R 0.096 WELL #3
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/10/2012 F 0.127 WELL #10A AND #10B
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/06/2012 R 0.388 WELL #1
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/06/2012 R 0.144 WELL #10B – RAW
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/06/2012 F 0.163 GP WELL #8
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/06/2012 F 0.167 GP WELL #9
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/06/2012 R 0.912 WELL #2
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/06/2012 R 0.353 WELL #4
BRIDGEWATER MANGANESE 04/06/2012 R 0.559 WELL #5A

Explaining the differing guidelines for manganese:

Above are the testing results provided to the state DEP regarding manganese (in raw and finished water), going back to 2012. The locations of the wells can be found on the town’s website, under the distribution map, which we’ve posted below.

Breaking it down, as 7 News reported above, Environmental Working Group (https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/system.php?pws=MA4042000) supports the strictest of health guidelines for manganese. They say it’s to protect formula-fed infants. Their limit is 0.1 ppm (parts per million) or .1 mg/l (milligrams per liter). It’s the guideline the Minnesota Department of Public Health follows. More information here: https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/water/docs/contaminants/mangnsefctsht.pdf

The Massachusetts DEP’s recommended limit for manganese is 0.3 mg/l or 0.3 parts per million, slightly lower than the EPA’s. They have more information here on how much manganese you should consume in a lifetime: https://www.mass.gov/doc/manganese-in-drinking-water-typical-questions-and-answers-for-consumers-0/download

The EPA says the health effects of manganese are not a concern for them until concentrations are around .5 mg/l or .5 ppm. Anything higher than .05 mg/l or ppm can cause staining, however.

The Water Treatment Plant: 

The Carver’s Pond Water Treatment Plant serves almost the whole west side of the town, plus parts of the east/southeast, according to the water department.

They say the streets served by the plant regularly are: Bedford Street,  (parts of) Pleasant Street, streets south of Pleasant Street, South Street,  (parts of) Summer Street, Laurel Street, (parts of) Auburn Street, Flag Street, Conant Street, Winter Street, and Elm Street.

Here is the town’s water distribution map: https://www.bridgewaterma.org/177/Water-Supply

 

 

 

 

 

 

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