Town Deals With Dirty Water by Building Enormous Plant

Barbara Buchert of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, watches her water closely when she turns on the faucet for a drink, or to wash the dishes or laundry.

"Really dirty brown, just sandy and dirty," she said. "Just disgusting."

In fact, many people in Shrewsbury have had to keep bottled water on hand and constantly scrub the silt stains off their showers since manganese has become a problem in the town drinking water.

"The water has been real disgusting," Leeann Bronzo added.

But this week, crews have begun work on the town's new biological filtration water plant -– slated to be the second largest plant of its kind in North America.

"This plant is designed to treat manganese to keep it below the 0.05 parts per billion limit," said Shrewsbury Water and Sewer Superintendent Robert Tozeski.

Tozeski says right now the manganese levels are four to six times that. In doing testing for this project, the town found another issue with the well water.

"We have what's known as hexavalent chromium that we did pick up in three of our wells," said Tozeski.

Hexavalent chromium is a carcinogen that can be dangerous to humans at higher levels.

Tozeski says the town plans to try to treat that with a similar organic process beginning in the fall.

That would be in addition to the roughly $13 million currently projected for the water plant project.

"That's a lot of money, but if it's going to be clean and free of that in the future, then it's probably worth it," said Buchert.

The town has set aside $550,000 to pay for the hexavalent chromium testing and flushing. There is some state funding for the water plant, but there could be a water rate increase next year.

The plant is slated to be completed by December 2018.

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