MWRA staff presented an update on upcoming work on MWRA’s fluoride chemical addition system. MWRA Deputy Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Fiore began the presentation with an overview MWRA’s water system, including the water service area; reservoirs; the system of water pipes, tunnels, and aqueducts; storage facilities; and, pump stations. She noted that MWRA also supplies Quabbin Reservoir water to the McLaughlin Fish Hatchery and generates electricity at the Oakdale and Cosgrove hydropower facilities. She then presented additional background on the Brutsch Water Treatment Facility, the Carroll Water Treatment Plant, and their respective treatment processes. Finally, Ms. Fiore described the MWRA/Department of Conservation and Recreation (“DCR”) Watershed Protection Program.
Next, MWRA Director of Waterworks Valerie Moran presented a more detailed review of MWRA’s water treatment steps at the Carroll Plant, including primary and residual disinfection, corrosion control and fluoridation. She highlighted a solar panel array that generates green energy at the Carroll plant. She then advised that MWRA was planning a temporary shutdown of fluoridation at the Carroll Plant to accommodate work to replace chemical feed equipment for fluoridation and corrosion control. She explained that much of the current equipment was approximately 20 years old and nearing the end of its useful life. She further explained that replacement work would begin in mid-March, 2023. Ms. Moran described the equipment and systems that will be replaced under the contract, and explained that the work requires the temporary shutdown of fluoridation cycles. She further noted that MWRA staff recommended the isolation of the fluoridation system once for approximately three months until all the work is complete, rather than initiate three to six, two- to three-week “off-on” cycles. She explained that shutting down fluoridation for one longer period of time rather than for repeated, shorter timeframes promotes worker safety. She further explained that a single shutdown was beneficial because it reduces the frequency of potential regional hazmat team calls in case of emergency. Ms. Moran noted that the Marlborough Fire Chief had also recommended one full isolation period due to potentially long response times for the hazmat team, which is not located in Marlborough. Next, she provided background on fluoridation in the MDC/MWRA’s water system, which has taken place since the 1970s with few interruptions. Mr. Moran then explained that in preparation for the upcoming fluoride shutdown, MWRA staff had coordinated with the DPH and DEP, who reviewed and approved MWRA’s shutdown and community outreach plans. She provided an overview the outreach plan, which includes notifications to all water superintendents and public health officers in the MWRA service area, the advance posting of a public notice with subsequent progress updates on the front page of MWRA’s website, as well as notices on the website’s fluoridation page and in the Monthly Water Quality Update report. She then reviewed the schedule for the fluoride shutdown, beginning with a fluoride dilution process for tank and pipe flushing in January 2023, followed by the handover of flushed equipment to the contractor in mid-March. Finally, Ms. Moran explained that construction was expected to take place through late April or early May, with final testing and the resumption of fluoridation expected to be complete by late May.
Board Member White-Hammond asked for clarification on how much the temporary fluoride shutdown could impact the dental health of constituents, and asked if MWRA and customer communities could potentially partner with local dentists and schools for additional outreach. MWRA Director of Planning and Sustainability Stephen Estes-Smargiassi explained that DPH specified that no additional outreach efforts were required for MWRA’s shutdown due to its short duration. Board member Peña asked about legal strategy to reduce risks. General Counsel Francisco-Murphy explained that Law Division and Risk Management staff work closely to look for any potential risks, and that the upcoming shutdown had not raised concerns.
Rev. White-Hammond suggested that issuing an informational press release could help maintain and build public trust in MWRA. Mr. Estes-Smargiassi explained that MWRA’s current outreach strategy for the shutdown included the prominent placement of a notice on mwra.com and outreach to all public health officers in the affected service area. Mr. Laskey asked Board Members if they recommended the issuance of a region-wide press release. Rev. WhiteHammond suggested ways that a press release could be framed and Board Members Flanagan and Foti noted benefits of a press release. Chair Pappastergion noted that community-level officials were responsible for informing local ratepayers of any changes to water chemistry, and recommended that MWRA staff encourage local water superintendents and public health officers to notify their constituents. There was discussion about approaches, including a bill flyer and the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), and what could be included. Secretary Tepper suggested that outreach materials could state that staff had consulted with public health officials and that no dental health impacts were expected. Mr. Estes-Smargiassi advised that staff would reach back out to DPH to collaborate with them on approaches. It was noted that there are some water districts that do not fluorinate; but that the water for fully- and partially-supplied MWRA communities in Eastern Massachusetts water is fluoridated. Chair Pappastergion asked if there was further discussion or questions from the Board. Hearing none, he moved to Personnel and Compensation. (ref. VI A.1)
*Original full-text article online at: https://www.mwra.com/monthly/bod/boardmaterials/2023/2023-02-15%20OS%20Board%20Materials.pdf