Like ‘Showering With Water From a Pond': Brown Water Has Plagued Scituate for Years

Residents of Scituate, Massachusetts, say brown water has been a problem in the community for at least a decade

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Brown water has flowed for years into homes in Scituate, Massachusetts.

The problem is aging infrastructure and a water treatment plant in need of an upgrade.



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Laurie Withrow has been posting photos of brown water filling her bathtub and coming out of the tap for at least a decade.

"Our bathtub was, you could see just the brown and the sediment in it from the pipes here. Bathing my toddler 10 years ago wasn't so fun," said Withrow.

Monday afternoon, the water coming out of the kitchen sink was clear, but she says she doesn't drink it.

"We have a water cooler for our family. We don't even give it to our dog, actually," said Withrow. "We have had brown water recently, and when the water department came out, they told us that it was because our hydrants weren't flushed for quite a while, and I'm happy to report that last Monday, our hydrant right across the street was flushed."

During the multidepartment response to a massive fire that burned several homes on Glades Road Friday, police warned residents they may experience discolored water and pressure issues.

Matt Shamley says he is buying a pricey water filter system for his home to help clear the water.

"It is occasionally where you get a day or two of brown water," he said. "If you are taking a shower, sometimes it feels like you are showering with water from a pond, and you can't do laundry if there are any whites. It turns your clothes tan."

The brown stuff is iron and manganese, minerals that have built up in the aging pipes.

"We have about 110 miles of pipe, so it's equivalent from Scituate to, say, Portland, Maine, and we are trying to figure out what the best way to fix it is," said Kevin Cafferty, director of the Scituate Department of Public Works. "We've been investing strongly in the system and we've replaced over 30 miles of pipe over the past 10 years, as well as making improvements to our wells and infrastructure as it goes, but it's just a long process. You can't really do it all at once because we still have to supply water to the residents as it goes on."

He added that the water is tested daily and there are no safety issues.

Town Administrator Jim Boudreau said the long-term solution is replacing the water treatment plant. The town has approved financing, and the project is in its design phase. In the meantime, the town will install filters to help address the minerals discoloring the water.

"We also had an issue last summer with our reservoir, where accumulated iron and manganese in the reservoir was going to the water treatment plant that doesn't treat for that, so we're in the process right now of putting in a temporary treatment facility to treat the iron and manganese in the reservoir and that will be operational until our new water treatment plant is completed sometime in 2026," Boudreau said.

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