WellesleyWeston Magazine

SUMMER 2016

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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lead to leach from pipes. While Wellesley's mains are lead-free, that's not always the case with indoor plumbing. Our sub will endure one last chemical bath: the addition of hypochlorite (chlorine and oxygen). After sit- ting for a while in a tank to allow the disinfectant to take hold, the water is released into the town's 150 miles of pipe. Depending on the demand for water, our sub may plop out of a faucet within hours, or we could wind up spending the night in one of the town's four under- ground concrete storage tanks. Filling up at night, when water use is low, the tanks can hold a total of 6 million gallons. In the morning, when everyone is running their showers and filling their coffee machines, the water flows back into the pipeline. Since the reservoirs are on high ground, the pressure comes courtesy of gravity. The water system is designed to be sealed off from any potential contaminants. But nothing is foolproof. Every week, water is sent to labs for testing from nine sites around town. One week in August 2014, technicians found bacteria in several samples, indicating something foul in the water. As a precau- tion, residents throughout town were ordered to boil their drinking water. After several days, water officials tracked the source of the problem to one of the reservoir tanks. It was isolated from the main water system, drained, and cleaned. The workers turned up a mouse. How did a mouse get into the system? For cleaning and monitoring purposes, all tanks can be accessed through hatches. In the wake of 9/11, a hatch for this particular tank was buried several feet below the sur- face. The security measure may have thwarted terrorists, 102 A Fantastic Voyage W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s u m m e r 2 0 1 6 Although he plays a key role in keeping Greater Boston running, David Coppes doesn't expect anyone to notice. "You turn your tap on, and the water is always there," said Coppes, director of water works for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). "It's always clean. It always tastes good. So you don't think about it." In the wake of the nightmare news out of Flint, Michigan, I asked Coppes to take me on a tour of the MWRA's reservoirs and treatment plant. A veteran Peace Corps volunteer — he helped bring water to a remote village in Yemen — Coppes comes across more like an Appalachian Mountain Club guide than a government bureaucrat. He is one of five former Peace Corps volunteers among the top ranks at the MWRA. It's a place where they can still feel like they're making a difference, he said. "People understand the importance of what we do. If something is not right and needs fixing, it's amazing how people step up," Coppes said. "It's really fun to be part of an organization that is mission driven." It wasn't so fun six years ago, though, when a leak sprung in the MetroWest tunnel, spurring the governor to declare an emergency and to warn residents to boil their water. Ironically, the tunnel had been opened less than a decade before to pro- vide Boston a second supply line from its reservoir system. At the time of the burst, the other line, Hultman Aqueduct, was closed for a major overhaul. Redundancy is the mantra at the MWRA. The John J. Carroll Water Treatment plant in Marlborough has enough excess capacity that half of it can be shut down at a time for mainte- nance and repairs in winter. The key disinfecting systems — ozone and ultraviolet light — each have spare units. The water system as a whole can produce 300 million gal- lons a day, which is 50 percent higher than typical demand. The MWRA samples water quality at the treatment plant multiple times a day. Staff members call every municipality weekly to ask about complaints. "You don't want problems sneaking up on you," Coppes said. "If your water is objection- able, has some flaw in it, people won't trust you. The next thing you know, you have a Michigan situation." SAFETY MEASURES P H O T O S B Y M E D I A B A K E R Y

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