Officials working on discoloration issues

NASHUA – Some residents in the city’s north end are seeing brown water flowing from their faucets, and officials hosted a special meeting Thursday night to address concerns.

Pennichuck Water Works officials already have been cooperating with Nashua Alderwoman Patricia Klee to find answers and correct the problem.

Pennichuck is working cooperatively with the property owners relative to the situation residents are experiencing at the Clovelly Apartments.

Officials are in the process of working to diagnose what the situation is, while working directly with Klee.

During the meeting, Pennichuck Chief Operating Officer Don Ware explained the causes of colored water, and what people can do if they are experiencing this issue with assistance from Vice President Bernie Rousseau. Ware said in typical New England distribution systems there are two sources that can cause colored water to flow from peoples faucets.

“There are sources that come from within the piping that leaves the treatment plant and goes to your houses,” Ware said. “The piping underground is primarily a combination of iron pipe – prior to 1937 that pipe was not lined with cement, and iron in the presence of water creates rust. The main that your services are tapped off of is a 16-inch main installed in 1881. That water main has got a buildup of that.”

However, he said, as flows change direction or in the event of a fire or broken main, people will get a release of rust, and that rust is the source of the orange water some may be seeing. Moreover, he said the second source of colored water in most of New England is manganese, which occurs naturally in both the groundwater and surface water.

“It’s black, and up from 1852 until 2007, there was a modicum of manganese that came out of the raw water, went into the distribution system,” Ware said. “We add chlorine that would combine with that and form a little black particle, or we would combine it with an orthophosphate and you would form, again, a black scale on the inside of a pipe.”

Ware said back when he came to work at Pennichuck 23 years ago, there was about 106 miles of that type of pipeline in the ground. However, in his time working with the company, he has seen that number shrink, although there still is much work left to be completed.

“We are down to about 46 miles of pipeline, gradually replacing it over time, about four miles a year right now,” Ware said. “We hope to get rid of that last 46 miles over the next 10 to 12 years.”

However, in the meantime, he made it explicitly clear that people need to contact Pennichuck if they are experiencing this issue, and people can do so by reaching out to their 24/7 customer service line, 800-553-5191. Typically, when people call with this issue, Pennichuck advises them to run cold water for 10 to 15 minutes. If the color does not clear up after running the faucet, that could then be an indicator that something is going on in the distribution system.

Ware explained that, as a homeowner, first people will want to look and identify if the issue is in their cold water and their hot water. He said if it’s not in the cold water, it means it’s not coming from the street, because the water coming from the street is cold water. He said it means the homeowner probably has a problem with their hot water system, and typically, that’s as a result of the fact that at one point or another, material was pulled into the hot water tank. He said if it is in the cold water, then it could be coming from the street or within their house.

“One of the things we need people to do is to call,” Ware said. “And we’re going to come out, and it’s not unusual, especially in the north end of the city where the pipes are the oldest and we’re still replacing them, that we have to go out.”

He said if people are having more than three or four incidents in a year, something is going on either in the service or in their house.

Klee said it has happened to her, and also encourages people to call.

“They have a great recording system so now they can see if there’s a cluster, and that’s why it’s important for us to call,” Klee said. “They can’t track, they can’t fix, if they don’t know what’s going on.”

Nevertheless, Board of Aldermen member Tom Lopez said he did reach out to the city’s health department to hear from them on this issue.

“Their assessment was that there’s no health concerns at this time,” Lopez said.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.