No more drought, but is there still a water restriction?

The Granville Reservoir on May 17. Water is up to the shores, which is in stark contrast to last year (The Westfield News)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – With drought conditions finally being removed in Massachusetts, water use in the city can return to normal—almost.

Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton removed the drought conditions on the Connecticut River Valley—where Westfield is a part of—and elsewhere in the state May 11, ending its roughly two-year status that plagued most of the state. This change means relief for Massachusetts residents and the city, but it doesn’t mean restrictions aren’t still in place.

“It’s good news for the whole state in terms of being able to return to more normal operations,” Heather Miller, water systems engineer for Westfield, said.

Miller said that in particular, the Granville Reservoir is still full, often overflowing even with added capacity via splash boards.

“We’re often seeing water overflowing those splash boards even with the ramping up of the water treatment plant,” she said.

However, Miller was clear that in spite of the good news Westfield residents are still under a water restriction. This restriction was put in place this past March, after precipitation helped to fill the Granville Reservoir and the previously-in-place water ban was lifted.

According to Miller, the water restriction isn’t the decision of the water department, but rather the Westfield Water Commission. And until they lift the restriction, it will continue to be in place.

Still, the idea of continued water conservation is not necessarily a bad one.

“For us, we still do have constraints on the system because [wells] seven and eight are still not running,” she said. The wells were previously taken offline due to perfluorinated compound (PFC) levels being above an EPA lifetime advisory limit last year.

“And while looking better with the supply of water, it’s always better to be careful with the water supplies we have and to be good stewards,” she said.

In addition to maintaining the restriction, additional water conservation strategies have occurred, including the rain barrel program through the city, with pick-ups occurring last week. Miller lauded residents who participated, citing individual efforts for water conservation.

As to the process of getting wells seven and eight back online, Miller said that the department is still awaiting bench scale testing on the water, which would allow them to figure out how strong the initial filtering of the water would have to be.

“We are anticipating the results from bench scale testing very soon,” she said. “We expect to see them any day now, then we can continue moving forward with design and permitting of water treatment.”

She added that the city is currently going through the design process for the filtration systems, which is a carbon-based system, and that “certain things can’t be finalized until” the bench scale testing results are in.

Miller couldn’t provide a specific timetable for when the two wells will be back online, but noted that to her understanding, there has been no change from the last update.

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