For three days, residents of Boston and surrounding communities have been advised to boil their water following a major water main break Saturday morning. Cambridge residents are not affected because the city receives its water from a different source.
The end may be in sight. As of early Monday morning, the pipe is repaired and the water is being tested for quality. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority hopes that everything will return to normal “within a day or two” spokesman Ria Convery told The Tech yesterday, though “we don’t want to set expectations, that would be irresponsible.” Last night, Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick told the Associated Press he expects the final results “very soon.”
In the meantime, the MIT Emergency Operations Center is delivering three to five five-gallon containers of Poland Spring water to living groups in Boston. MIT plans to continue water deliveries for the duration of the crisis.
Ari P. Miller ’11, president of Beta Theta Pi, said that his fraternity recently received the water provided by MIT. Several brothers also went to Shaw’s this weekend to buy bottled water as well, Miller said.
Renaldo M. Webb ’10, president of Phi Delta Theta, said that the crisis “hasn’t actually been that bad.” Phi Delta Theta regularly receives Poland Spring water delivery and got a new delivery “right before the crisis happened.” The fraternity keeps a stockpile of water, and has not really been affected by the shortage, he said.
On Saturday, the day of the break, Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick declared a state of emergency and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority issued a boil water order asking residents in affected areas to boil tap water before consuming it. Residents have been asked to restrict water use to essential purposes only.
Affected areas included 30 communities east of Weston including Boston, Brookline, and Somerville, but not Cambridge. The affected communities were all Massachusetts Water Resources Authority customers who derived their water from the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts. Since Cambridge draws its water from the Fresh Pond Reservoir, owned and operated by the Cambridge Water Department, the city — including most of MIT — was not affected.
Clean water from the Sudbury Aqueduct and untreated water from an emergency back-up reservoir system, the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, are currently supplying affected communities and is safe for bathing, flushing, and fire prevention but not for human consumption.
“It’s like lake water. You’ll swim in it, but not drink it,” Frederick Laskey, executive director of the MWRA, said to the Associated Press.
The break was reported 10 miles west of Boston in Weston between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturday. It occurred in a coupling joining two sections of 10-foot-wide metal piping. At its worst, the breach resulted in water leaking into the Charles River at a rate of 8 million gallons per hour, causing water levels to rise in the Charles and forcing pumps to be activated at a nearby dam.
The contaminated water is estimated to have affected nearly 750,000 households, the New York Times reported. Residents have swept bottled water off shelves in grocery stores around Boston. The state of Massachusetts has asked bottled-water companies to supply more water to ease demand and the National Guard has been distributing emergency water as well.
Updates on the situation and the status of the boil water order can be found on the MWRA’s website,
Jessica J. Pourian contributed to the reporting of this article.