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WVN #455: Concern over sodium levels in water

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, The Board of Health and other officials are concerned about the increasing amount of sodium in Wayland s water, which is above recommended
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4, 2012
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      The Board of Health and other officials are concerned about the increasing amount of sodium in Wayland's water, which is above recommended levels.

      Also in this newsletter: NStar tree-cutting complaints, aqueduct trails, Community Preservation Act changes and other briefs.


      In March, the Wayland Board of Health wrote to public works Director Don Ouellette and water Superintendent Mike Hatch, saying it believed elevated sodium levels at the two Happy Hollow wells represented a public health concern. Since town water from all seven active wells is blended at times, sodium levels could affect all water users.

      This advisory was also posted on a bulletin board outside the Board of Health offices and on the town website, reported in WVN newsletter #454: http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_HealthNews/01870DB5-000F8513, but most residents may have been unaware of it.

      In February the Wayland Wells group (www.waylandwells.com), the people who served on the now-disbanded Wayland Wellhead Protection Committee and created the official Wayland Wellhead Protection Plan, wrote to the Board of Health pointing out that there has been a pattern of increasing levels of sodium at these wells.

      Data from 1994 show sodium levels ranging from 17 to 23 milligrams per liter. Recent levels were reported as high as 76.4 mg/l, far above the Department of Environmental Protection(DEP) drinking water guideline of 20 mg/l.

      The Wayland Wells group noted that preliminary water quality analyses reported in DEP correspondence in October 2011 for the three proposed Happy Hollow replacement wells also show elevated readings ranging from 46.4 to 76.4 mg/l. The Wayland Department of Public Works is working to move the existing wells to higher ground to pull them out of the Sudbury River floodplain. March 2010 floodwaters came within inches of the wells.

      The Wellhead Protection Committee had also suggested that the DPW Water Division use the existing tri-level groundwater monitoring wells at the Happy Hollow site to try to determine whether the sodium concentrations are occurring in the aquifer or resulting from runoff from surface sources.

      Quarterly Testing For Sodium

      Because of citizen concerns the Water Division had previously agreed to quarterly testing of all town wells for sodium.

      According to the 2011 Consumer Confidence Report mailed out recently to Wayland households, sodium is considered an unregulated contaminant. The DPW is required to report elevated sodium levels to the local Board of Health as well as to the DEP and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

      A May 21 email from the water superintendent showed that the seven active town wells have sodium concentrations over the 20 mg/l guideline, with the Feb. 7, 2012 data showing 63 and 72 mg/l at the Happy Hollow Wells. The DPW reported that water drawn from the five wells in north Wayland - Chamberlain, Campbell and the three at Baldwin Pond- contained from 23 to 32 mg/l of sodium.

      In April the DPW found 39 mg/l of sodium in the town's water in the Reeves Hill water storage tank. The blending of town water in the distribution system can vary significantly depending on time of day, time of year, extent of water usage and which of the wells are actually pumping.

      Wayland's Baldwin water treatment plant uses an ultrafiltration process that essentially relies on ozone and sodium hypochlorite to purify the town's drinking water. The plant is not designed to remove sodium and only treats water from the three Baldwin wells.

      During summer high peak water demand and whenever the Baldwin treatment plant is shut down for maintenance or repairs, there is greater reliance on the Happy Hollow wells. Residents living in southern Wayland are likely to be exposed to the higher sodium concentrations whenever the Happy Hollow wells are running, as their high capacity would overwhelm any flow from the north.

      Sodium and Health

      Those who need to restrict sodium in their diets for medical reasons include the elderly, whose blood pressure can increase with age. Most of the town's senior housing is located south of Reeves Hill.

      The Board of Health met with DPW Director Ouellette for about a half hour at its May 29 meeting to discuss increasing sodium concentrations. Board members asked questions about the sodium data, what progress has been made towards mitigating elevated sodium concentrations, and complaints about the unpleasant taste and smell of chlorine. The Board also welcomed questions and comments from the audience.

      The discussion elicited the fact that water bottling companies rely on reverse osmosis to remove sodium from the water they purchase from municipalities. One resident on a salt-restricted diet for medical reasons reported that he relies on bottled water purchased at a supermarket for his drinking water. The manufacturer (Acadia) informed him that its bottled water contains 6 mg/l of sodium.

      Water filters used by homes and businesses can remove the unpleasant smell and taste of chlorine in the water, but not sodium. Those who have installed a water softening system may not realize they may actually be adding small amounts of sodium to their drinking water from the operation of the system.

      While acknowledging the importance of informing those on salt-restricted diets, the DPW director did not appear to share the level of concern of the Board or the audience. Ouellette's explanations for why he was not surprised by the sodium data included 1) New England was once under the ocean and 2) about 25-30 years ago the Highway Department used to mix salt and sand for roadway application at the sand pit abutting the Happy Hollow wells.

      But New England has not been submerged for millions of years, and the Wayland salt issue is less than 20 years old. And the town's 2011 Wellhead Protection Plan notes that the Highway Department ceased operations at the sand pit at least forty years ago, and cites a 30-year-old document noting a decline in salt levels by 1979.

      The aquifer under Happy Hollow is considered one of the best around, with almost no iron or manganese in the pumped water to require filtration. Iron and manganese are serious problems at most other town wells.

      When BoH member Michael Bean asked if all the Happy Hollow water is commingled, Ouellette responded that it was and that all the water goes to the Reeves Hill water storage tank.But Ouellette did not explain that the nature of hydraulic flow would expose users living near a pumping well primarily or exclusively to water drawn from that well. The wells all pump into the common piping of the distribution system; they are not connected by separate pipes to the storage tank.

      Bean also asked if the water division has conferred with other towns about increasing sodium levels. The answer was "no."

      BoH member Cynthia Hill asked about the chlorine she notices in her water and wanted to know how much sodium is added during water treatment. A resident in the audience calculated that the sodium hypochlorite used to purify the water at all the wellheads contains about 40% sodium. Sodium fluoride is also added to help prevent tooth decay.

      Ouellette described steps taken to try to address sodium levels: the design of the new high school essentially swapped the location of buildings and parking areas so that parking is as far from the wells as possible; road salt is no longer used at the high school; a 50/50 mixture of salt/sand is used on Wayland roadways. According to Ouellette, moving the Happy Hollow wells up-gradient would move them away from Dudley Brook, sand pit and roads. But that would only be relevant if the sodium source were nearby, and not entering the aquifer from up-gradient sources. Ouellette acknowledged that preliminary tests at the proposed replacement wells locations are producing similar elevated sodium results.

      Dudley Brook, the surface outlet of Dudley Pond, flows right by the Happy Hollow wells, and one can readily observe the brook drying up as it passes the wells and the brook water is drawn down into the aquifer. The brook carries water from the Pond along with road runoff all along its roughly one mile course. The location of the proposed replacement wells would still leave the brook well within the "capture zone" of the wells as determined by a Wellhead Protection Committee study, meaning that all of the water would be drawn into the new wells just as readily as it is drawn into the current wells.

      Question About Road Salt, Chlorine

      Ouellette reported that liquified calcium chloride is used as well as the sand/sodium chloride mixture. It was reported that runoff tested at the catch basin near the Route 27 highway garage showed sodium chloride, not calcium chloride. Ouellette said that calcium chloride is 10 times more expensive than sodium chloride and requires special equipment to apply it, but added that he will look into it.

      Regarding complaints about chlorine, Ouellette said several times that the residual chlorine coming out of the Baldwin plant has not changed in at least 14 months. But not everyone's drinking water comes primarily from the plant.

      Some residents may recall the notice dated October 18, 2011 mailed to all water customers reporting three positive findings of coliform bacteria in Wayland water samples taken in August 2011. http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_Water/Coliform.pdf Coliforms are naturally present in the environment and are used as an indicator that other, potentially harmful, bacteria may be present.

      The notice said that the chlorine dosage at all treatment points had been increased and new chlorine injection pumps had been installed.

      Ouellette did not explain that the design of the Baldwin plant was meant to minimize or eliminate the use of chlorine entirely, using ozone as the disinfectant instead. But after the plant was opened in February 2010, it encountered a major problem with "iron-eating" bacteria in the Baldwin wells clogging the delicate plant filters. The primary strategy ultimately used to deal with the bacteria was heavy doses of chlorine, obviating one of the major advantages of the ozonation process.

      Next Steps?

      As the discussion with the DPW Director drew to a close, the Board of Health concurred that it will post the sodium data on the town website and will have hard copies available at the office. It also will post the sodium advisory more prominently on its website.

      Ouellette commented that the DPW is doing what it can, given its limited control of the water chemistry, and Wayland "may be at 70 (mg/l) for a while and then it may drop off." When asked about following up with the Board of Health, Ouellette said he would continue to send data to the BoH, but he could not promise that he'll show up again.

      Absent a more thorough understanding of the source of the sodium problem from a study such as was recommended by the Wellhead Protection Committee, it is impossible to predict whether the actions taken to date by the DPW will be effective.

      -- WVN Staff


      Wayland selectmen plan to meet with NStar officials at 2 p.m. Monday, June 4, in the selectmen's meeting room to discuss "vegetation maintenance near transmission lines." The meeting is open but no public comment time is listed on the agenda.

      Among the issues is the impact on residential neighborhoods of clear cutting trees and other vegetation within utility easements for major transmission lines running through Framingham, Wayland and Sudbury. Affected residents in all three towns have mobilized and protested against the extent of deforestation. In Wayland the high-tension lines run through the Stonebridge Road neighborhood, e.g. Oak Hill Road and Meadowview.

      At their May 30 meeting, Framingham selectmen agreed to seek a moratorium on this activity after receiving many complaints from constituents.

      State legislators from the MetroWest area sent a detailed letter on May 31 to NStar's CEO also calling for a moratorium until better communications can be established with the public and appropriate accommodations can be planned.
      http://www.wickedlocal.com/wayland/news/x464985211/Legislators-contact-NStar-CEO-about-tree-cutting#axzz1vqwO50ff (See link on top right)

      The following boards all plan to meet on Monday evening, June 4: Assessors, School Committee, Health, Recreation and Public Works.
      See http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/index for posted meeting agendas.

      Click on the June 4 date in the meeting calendar, then click on the name of the board/committee to access the proposed agenda. The Board of Public Works agenda includes "set water rates."

      On Tuesday, June 5, the Planning Board will hold a 7:35 p.m. public hearing concerning the Town Center project, including a Stop & Shop proposal to install six 35-foot wind turbines:


      The Wayland Library is working on a five-year plan and asks residents to take a brief survey. You can make your views known at: www.waylandlibrary.org


      The Pelham Island Road bridge over the Sudbury River is now scheduled to remain open until June 18. The contractor says the replacement bridge will still open sometime in November.

      The road was expected to be closed for the duration weeks earlier.

      The contractor says that if bad weather or other problems delay completion, the new bridge will be made passable for the winter and then finished in the spring.


      Habitat for Humanity in Wayland suggests a gift for father's day. A foundation block can be purchased online or at Russells for $75 each or $125 for two. These blocks can be decorated or contain a message when laid in the foundation of the two duplexes to be built on Stonebridge Road.

      To purchase blocks online, go to
      http://www.habitatmwgw.org/donate/donate-online/ fill out the form, and direct your donation to the Wayland Build.


      The MWRA announced it has opened some inactive aqueducts to trail use. These include the Cochituate, Sudbury, Weston and Wachusett aqueducts. Host communities will be allowed to develop and manage trails, while keeping care and control with the MWRA. Guidelines for use are at

      In Wayland, the Weston aqueduct runs from the Sudbury Dam, through Nobscot, near Five Paths Wayland, to south of Chestnut Street in Weston.http://www.wardmaps.com/viewasset.php?aid=6791
      The Weston aqueduct has been routinely used by walkers for decades, despite the illegality. It is also occasionally used by horse riders and off-road vehicles.

      The Cochituate aqueduct runs from Lake Cochituate to the Brookline reservoir, passing through Natick, Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline.

      The Sudbury aqueduct runs from Farm Pond on Waverly Street in Framingham through Sherborn, Natick, Wellesley, Needham and Newton.

      The Wachusett aqueduct runs from the Wachusett Reservoir in Clinton, through Berlin and Northborough, to a treatment plant in Marlborough.

      The Hultman aqueduct, which passes by Dudley Pond in Wayland and extends near School Street, is being repaired and is not on the list. The Hultman, formerly the main water supply to Boston, will become the primary backup supply conduit to the new Metrowest Tunnel when the Hultman again becomes operational.


      Both the House and Senate have approved changes in the Community Preservation Act that broaden communities' abilities to use funds for land not previously acquired with CPA funds. Both endorse an increase in state funding, but the amount has to be resolved. They agree on all other aspects of the bill.

      While the House bill calls for an increase of $25 million dedicated to the CPA, the Senate bill calls for $5 million to boost state matching funds for the 148 communities, including Wayland, who participate by levying a fee on top of taxes.

      The bill states: "With respect to land for recreational use, rehabilitation shall include the replacement of playground equipment and other capital improvements to the land or the facilities thereon which make the land or the related facilities more functional for the related recreational use."

      Among the changes in the bill: prohibition of use of CPA funds for acquisition of artificial turf, and recommendation that housing expenditures be used for existing buildings or construction on previously developed sites. See part of Section 5 below:

      "2) The community preservation committee shall make recommendations periodically throughout the year, or as a single yearly recommendation to the legislative body for the acquisition, creation and preservation of open space; for the acquisition, preservation, rehabilitation and restoration of historic resources; for the acquisition, creation, preservation, rehabilitation and restoration of land for recreational use; for the acquisition, creation, preservation and support of community housing; and for the rehabilitation or restoration of open space and community housing that is acquired or created as provided in this section. With respect to community housing, the community preservation committee shall recommend, wherever possible, the reuse of existing buildings or construction of new buildings on previously developed sites. With respect to recreational use, the acquisition of artificial turf for athletic fields shall be prohibited."



      2012 annual town meeting voters approved establishing a Design Review Board to review building designs, site plan approval, special permits, signs and variance applications for all non-residential uses involving new commercial construction. The draft review guidelines are posted on the Town website: http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_Planning

      The Design Review Board will consist of five members appointed by the Planning Board, including, where possible; an architect, a landscape architect, Planning Board member or designee, a resident who owns a Wayland business, and a graphic designer. Members will serve for three-year terms.

      The Planning Board will accept applications from Wayland residents until June 15. Please send resumes and statement of interest to: Sarkis Sarkisian, Town Planner, 41 Cochituate Road, Wayland, MA 01778 or email: ssarkisian@...


      The Wayland Health Department recently announced that the Wayland Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers received the 2011 Branch of the Year Award. Volunteer Cynthia Hill received the Outstanding Flu Clinic Volunteer Award. These awards were presented during the Region 4A Conference held in Stow on May 5.

      Medical Reserve Corps volunteers are a specialized component of Citizen Corps, a national network of volunteers dedicated to ensuring hometown security through local health, safety and preparedness. Various programs and activities have included the annual flu vaccine clinics and sheltering needs during the October 2011 Snow Storm.

      Wayland residents interested in becoming an MRC Volunteer can call 508-358-3617 or visit the Region 4A MRC website at


      Wayland residents accustomed to watching Selectmen's meetings broadcast live by WayCAM on Monday nights will soon notice a program change. The following tentative meeting schedule for the remainder of the 2012 calendar year was adopted by the Board on May 21. These 17 dates are subject to change, pending unforeseen needs and events. During the same period in 2011, the Board posted to meet 24 times.

      Monday, May 21
      Monday, June 11
      Monday, June 18
      Monday, July 9
      Wednesday, July 18
      Wednesday, August 1
      Monday, August 20
      Monday, September 10
      Monday, September 24
      Thursday, October 4
      Monday, October 22
      Monday, October 29
      Monday, November 5
      Monday, November 19
      Monday, December 3
      Monday, December 10
      Monday, December 17

      -- WVN Staff

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