Mayor Sarno, Water & Sewer Commission Executive Director Schimmel and City Officials Provide Update on Water Main Break Situation and Boil-Water Notice

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, Springfield Water and Sewer Commission Executive Director Josh Schimmel, Health and Human Services (HHS) Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Warwick, Fire Commissioner BJ Calvi, Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood, Deputy Fire Chief of Emergency Preparedness Ty Denson, DPW Director Chris Cignoli, Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management (PBRM) Director Patrick Sullivan, and City Clerk Gladys Oyola who oversees the city’s 311 Call Center held a press conference today to provide an update on the major water main break that impacted water pressure and service throughout the city. As a result of the water main break, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a boil-water notice for Springfield and Ludlow.

Mayor Sarno has issued an emergency declaration due to the overall impact upon the city from the major water main break. “I am declaring this state of emergency due to the serve impact upon our city, our residents and businesses and to avail ourselves to Governor Healey’s State of Emergency funding. The recent rain and flash flooding has really hit our communities hard with costly infrastructure rebuilding and repairs. From Springfield and the Berkshires to Leominster, communities across the Commonwealth have been greatly impacted by these natural disasters. I spoke with Governor Maura Healey last night to discuss the situation here in Springfield and she offered her support. I have also spoken to MEMA and DEP officials last evening and this morning too.”

On Tuesday, afternoon, around 3:30 pm, a major water main break in the wooded area near St. James Ave resulted in significant loss of pressure across the Springfield Water and Sewer Commissions distribution system. After discovering the location of the water main break at around 5:30 pm, Commission crews discovered a broken 36” water main pipe gushing water. Crews worked hard to isolate and fix the break. After conferring and reviewing the situation with DEP and providing water sample tests, it was determined by DEP around 9:00 pm that out of an abundance of caution a boil-water notice for Springfield and Ludlow should be issued.

As of now water pressure should be returning to normal levels.

Mayor Sarno states, “I want to thank the Water and Sewer Commission crews for their quick response and action to identify, locate and resolve this major water main break. Water and Sewer crews continue to work hard on site to stabilize and fix the problem ASAP. As of today, water pressure and service should be returning to normal. This break was caused by the extreme amounts of heavy rain and flash flooding we have been experiencing that washed away the soil around the pipe. Today’s rain and flash flood warning is making the situation unstable as more soil and land is being erode and washed away. The dedicated crews from Water and Sewer and DPW will continue to work on site to stabilize the area by fill in the hole that was created from all the water that spilled out from the break and the rain. Once the site is stabilized work will begin to repair the damage.”

“Again, the public health of our residents and businesses remains my number one concern, which is why we issued this boil-water notice and sent out alert notices through multiple channels to our residents, including alerts from Springfield Water and Sewer to their customers via phone and/or email, reverse 911 calls citywide, and MEMA alert notifications,” said Mayor Sarno. “This is in addition to alerting everyone through the media and via our city’s website and social media platforms.”

Massachusetts drinking water standards require public water systems to maintain 20 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure at each service connection to ensure safe water to customers. The loss of pressure can result in suction of water through and into the distribution system and may result in bacterial contamination. As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, MassDEP is requiring the issuance of this public notice advising customers in Springfield and Ludlow to boil their water as a precautionary measure. The City of Springfield and Springfield Water and Sewer Commission expects this situation to be resolved in 24-48 hours.

Until the boil-water notice is lifted, residents should not drink the water without boiling or use bottle water.

Below are some quick F.A.Q.’s

Who is affected?
• All Commission drinking water customers in Springfield and Ludlow
• Commission drinking water customers that are “border accounts” in Wilbraham and East Longmeadow
• Residents of towns that receive drinking water wholesale from the Commission, including Agawam, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, and Southwick should contact their respective Water Departments/Public Works Departments regarding drinking water quality for their community. Currently there are no other boil water orders in our area.

What should customers do?
• Bring water to a roaring boil water for 1 minute
• Do not ingest water without boiling it first, including:
o Drinking
o Preparing baby formula
o Making ice
o Brushing teeth
o Cooking or washing food
o Washing dishes
• Flush toilets as normal
• It is safe to shower, try to avoid getting water in you mouth. For elderly or infants that need help bathing and that may not be able to avoid getting water in their mouth, the Commission is recommending sponge baths
• Discard any food, ice, or formula, etc. prepared with tap water after 3 PM on Tuesday, September 12
• Boil water or use bottled water for pets too

What if customers report discolored water?
• As is typical with large main breaks some customers are reporting discolored water due to shifts in the distribution system
• Customers experiencing discolored water should flush their cold water tap for 10-15 minutes, wait ½ hour, then repeat as necessary. After flushing, follow boil water orders as advised.
• To address the discolored water, Commission crews are conducting system flushing throughout the distribution system (flushing is conducted by strategically opening hydrants)

How long is this expected to last?
• The Commission isolated and closed the break on Tuesday afternoon and system pressure has returned to normal levels across the distribution system.
• The Commission is working with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection – who oversees municipal drinking water systems, as well as local and state public health officials to address the issue and resume normal operations.
• The Commission is monitoring the system and will continue to verify adequate pressure and will collect bacteria samples to confirm adequate water quality in our distribution system so that MassDEP can lift this boil water requirement.
• Currently, it is expected that the boil water alert will be in effect until Thursday (September 14th) pending water quality sample testing results

Josh Schimmel, Executive Director of Springfield Water and Sewer Commission, stated that the decision to issue the boil-water notice was out of an abundance of caution even though the risk for potential contamination is low. Director Schimmel discussed the water sampling process and that the second water sampling tested needed to lift the boil-water notice will be taken today and the results should come back as early as 5:00 am tomorrow morning.

DPW Director Chris Cignoli and Water and Sewer Executive Director Schimmel spoke about the cause of the water main break and the anticipated repairs that will be needed. The break was caused by this unseasonal and unheard-of rain and flash flooding we have experienced. Although the situation is currently being addressed, with the continued rain and flash flood warning that was issued by MEMA today, the ground area around the site is unstable and the City of Springfield and Springfield Water and Sewer Commission are advising everyone to stay away and avoid the wooded area behind the Big Y on St. James Ave. Springfield Police will be on site and adding this location to their daily patrols until the area is stabilized. Springfield Water and Sewer and City DPW crews will continue to be on site to stabilize the area, review site prep work to determine the scope and scale of the project to conduct repairs.

Mayor Sarno and Superintendent Daniel Warwick made the decision last night to cancel school for today out of an abundance of caution due to the water main break and boil-water notice. Springfield Public Schools are hopeful and planning to have students return to school tomorrow, Thursday, September 14th. Notice from the Springfield Public Schools to parents and guardians on if schools will be open or closed will be sent ASAP once the School District receives the results from the second water sampling test from the Commission.

Additionally, Mayor Sarno, HHS Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, Fire Commissioner BJ Calvi, District Fire Chief of Emergency Preparedness Ty Denson, Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood, and PBRM Director Patrick Sullivan are working to secure pallets of bottle water for distribution for Springfield residents to be distributed at the city’s cooling centers. The water being distributed is for Springfield residents that cannot boil-water or that have underlying health conditions, families with babies and infants, or the elderly. As of now, the water distribution centers will be open for TODAY only. If additional days are needed, the City of Springfield will send out proper notification