Water levels recovering but still low

A month of rain has started to replenish Abington’s reservoirs but levels remain significantly below where they should be, according to the town’s water department.

The region has received 9.54 inches of rain this month, according to data on weatherunderground.com – almost triple the normal monthly amount of precipitation.

“The Hingham Street Reservoir has gained about a foot which is great news for this time of year,” said Abington/Rockland Joint Water Works Superintendent Joe LaPointe.

Usually during the summer months, reservoir levels drop as customers in Abington and Rockland turn on hoses to keep lawns and gardens green and pools full. Naturally occurring evaporation also eats away at water levels.

“We are still about 6 feet below where we would be somewhat comfortable,” LaPointe said.

In addition to the Hingham Street Reservoir, the water works owns a reservoir at Great Sandy Bottom Pond in Pembroke, plus a well field off Myers Avenue in Abington. Last year’s severe drought, combined with higher usage rate and new developments coming online, drained reservoir levels to worrisome levels.

The system has been in a year-round Level 4 water ban, which prohibits outdoor watering. The water works also has instituted a freeze on applications for new water hookups while it conducts a systemwide supply and demand analysis. With a number of residential and commercial developments permitted by both towns but not yet fully built, the water system is nearing its water withdrawal limit. That limit is the state-imposed cap on how much water the system can safely use without damaging ecological resources. The cap is not directly linked to how much water is physically in the system at any one time as that volume can vary depending on multiple factors, such as weather conditions, an increase in user demand, multiple large fires, or a broken water main, for example.

LaPointe said there has been some discussion about stepping back the water ban to allow hand-held hoses every other day “but we have not made that decision yet.”


LaPointe said the levels of “forever chemicals” in the water system came in under the state-mandated cap last month but that its three-month average still slightly exceeds the allowable limit.

The state last year dropped the allowable level of per- and polyflouroalkyl substances – known as PFAS – from 70 nanograms per liter to 20, based on growing medical evidence that longterm consumption of the chemicals contribute to increased health risks. Municipal water systems across the state are now scrambling to retrofit treatment plants to meet the new water quality standards. The federal government’s standard remains at 70 nanograms. 

Because PFAS counts over the past three months exceed the state cap, the water works recently sent out a notice to users notifying them that people who fall into a sensitive sub group (those who are immuno-compromised, expectant or nursing mothers, infants, for example) should not consume the tap water. The Joint Water Works is making free water available for those customers at its headquarters, located at 366 Centre Ave., Rockland. The fill station is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Proof of residency is required.

The water works has been using a granulated carbon treatment to reduce PFAS levels as a temporary fix, and is in the process of buying two used filter vessels that will be temporarily installed in the Hingham Street plant. 

For a long-term solution, the department will be purchasing four new filter vessels for the Hingham Street plant, then transfer the two used units to the Myers Avenue treatment plant. 

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