Connecticut not immune to water quality issues, reports say

Haddam, Connecticut, one of 14 towns whose water systems serve at least 2,000 people that exceeded federal lead and copper limits, according to the state Department of Public Health. (Patrick Franzis/Creative Commons)

Haddam, Connecticut, one of 14 towns whose water systems serve at least 2,000 people that exceeded federal lead and copper limits, according to the state Department of Public Health. (Patrick Franzis/Creative Commons)

Recent reports by the Associated Press showed 39 of 1,082 water systems serving Connecticut’s water users were not in compliance with federal lead levels at least once since January 2013, according to federal lead sampling data. The Department of Public Health published a list of 14 water systems serving 2,000 people that exceeded federal lead and copper limits.

“As time goes on, our public water systems go in and out of compliance,” said Lori Mathieu, chief of drinking water for the Department of Public Health. “We make sure that the 14 listed are in compliance with public education and public notice and that they are moving forward with their treatment or review of what else they can do.”

Mathieu said that DPH, which is in charge of enforcing federal water quality rules in the state, would monitor the 14 noncompliant water systems to make sure they become compliant in a “reasonable time frame.” The 14 water systems are located in Danbury, Franklin, Greenwich, Haddam, Hebron, Manchester, Newtown, Norwalk, Old Lyme, Plainfield, Tolland and Wolcott.

The University of Connecticut is planning on completing a project this fall to source water from Shenipsit Lake Reservior in Ellington, Tolland and Vernon through the Connecticut Water Company. Although UConn will continue to have its own water system, the additional water from Connecticut Water will service a growing population and campus, said Maureen Westbrook, vice president of costumer and regulatory affairs at Connecticut Water, said.

Connecticut Water was not listed among the DPH’s noncompliant water systems. Westbrook said water from the 5 billion gallon Shenipsit Lake Reservoir is filtered through and treated at a water treatment plant in Rockville, but the plant is undergoing a major $20 million treatment upgrade to ensure the water is safe to drink.

“The system providing water to UConn is our largest water system,” Westbrook said. Throughout the state, Connecticut Water provides 23 million gallons of water per day to 315,000 people, but the demand for UConn and Mansfield alone is 100,000 gallons per day.

Westbrook said Connecticut Water is planning to spend $58.6 million in 2016 on funding upgrades for water treatment, storage, distribution, old pipeline replacement and informational technology.

“We are required to test for more than 120 potential contaminants and water quality parameters to ensure that water meets the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Westbrook said. “Connecticut Water has an aggressive source water protection program that includes regular inspection of private properties that lie within our watersheds to identify issue that could affect the quality of the water source.”

Issues with water quality have been documented across the country and a recent disaster in Flint, Michigan affected thousands of mainly lower income residents who were using lead-contaminated water that had leached from water distribution pipes. The problem in Flint, Mansfield Mayor Paul Shipiro said, was that the Environmental Protection Agency knew about the leaching.

Shapiro gets his water from wells on his Mansfield property, like the majority of residents in the town.

“I am unaware of any health issues associated with our well water,” Shapiro said. “But with regard to water from other sources that serve the UConn area and southern Mansfield, those are regulated by the DPH and EPA.”


Diler Haji is a staff writer for The Daily Campus.