Water System & Brown Water FAQ

What should I do if I have brown water?
Alert the Water Department by phone, email or online survey with every instance of brown water.
Phone: (781) 545-8735
We realize this may become tedious in the case of consistent discoloration but the Town can’t work to address your specific issues if we don’t know about them.
Who monitors the brownwater@scituatema.gov email address? Is there any follow-up via email?
The inbox is monitored by the Water Department. Emails that contain a question or something that requires follow-up will receive a response. If the email is a submission of data, they do not respond.
Why do we still have brown water?
The simple answer is that there is still iron from the last few miles of cast iron pipes that remain and manganese from the wells in our system. What causes these minerals to show up in our water in our homes and businesses is a bit more complicated.
Here are the primary culprits:
  • Water main breaks, which increase volume and stir up sediment in the system
  • Increased usage during the summer months, which also increases the amount of water flowing through the pipes and stirs up sediment
  • Water mains need to be flushed. We need to have enough water in order to flush the pipes, as well as pipes strong enough to withstand the flushing pressure, and these have been issues over the last few years.
  • Some dead end streets have a fire hydrant in the middle of the street, so the end of the road cannot be flushed.
  • Buildings and homes may need to be flushed. The Water Department’s reach only extends to the property line. 
  • Old pipes, which contain material which discolors water and can kick up sediment
What are the short and long term plans to address these issues?
See Water System Update doc online
If the Town cannot identify the source of my brown water what else can I do?
Make sure whoever manages your service line flushes the home or complex, it could be your own pipes.
What should I do if my house water filter is constantly breaking because of the amount of filtering required?
Refer to the manufacturer and / or installer of the system for professional advice. We also recommend higher quality, permanent filters that can be cleaned regularly instead of those that need replacement every few months.
Where should I send water to be tested?
The Town suggests the following testing facilities, all of which are certified by the Department of Environmental Protection:
New England Testing Laboratory in West Warwick RI
Morrell Associates in Marshfield
Alpha Analytical in Mansfield
Be advised that some testing companies also work with filtration companies, so their results could be skewed to benefit those partners. You may want to inquire about this before choosing a testing facility.
What should I do once I receive the test results?
Submit results to brownwater@scituatema.gov. We will then send those results to our consultants, Tighe & Bond, to interpret.
What is manganese and is it dangerous?
According to the US EPA, manganese is one of the most abundant metals on the earth's surface, making up approximately 0.1% of the earth’s crust. As a result, it is naturally occurring in many surface and groundwater sources.
It is a naturally occurring element that can be found throughout our air, soil, and water. It is an essential nutrient for humans and animals but there can be health effects from overexposure.
The EPA recommends reducing manganese concentrations to 0.050 mg/L or less, though the lifetime health advisory value of 0.3 mg/L will protect against concerns of potential neurological effects.
Is it an option for our town to drill deeper wells in order to eliminate manganese from the minerals in our water?
According to the town’s consultant Tighe & Bond, it doesn’t matter how deep we drill, these veins of manganese are riddled throughout the system. If we have manganese at 100 ft, we will likely have it at 300 ft.
It’s also important to note that digging deeper is not always an option due to soil conditions and production. For example, Well 22 was recently re-drilled but the conditions of the soil were not conducive to going any deeper.
What is ice pigging?
Ice pigging is a process where ice pellets are sent into a watermain (that has been removed from service) to clean out material that has deposited over time.  It does not impact the integrity of the pipes because the consistency is more like a slushy than ice cubes.
What do the Fall 2018 rate increases cover?
The majority of the increase covers the final 2 miles of pipe replacement, to be completed Spring 2019. The increase also covers any capital items that were approved at previous Town Meetings such as upgrades to Well 17A and the water treatment plant, and meter replacements.