South Deerfield water issued conditional capacity rating; superintendent disputes report

SOUTH DEERFIELD — For the first time since 2015, the water supply district has received a conditional rating in its survey by the state agency that oversees its operations.

The rating system is three-tiered: adequate, conditional and inadequate. If the South Deerfield Water Supply District doesn’t address the roughly dozen issues by the deadline — none directly questioning the immediate integrity of the drinking water — it risks leaving residents with a water supply that is not approved by the state.

There is a list of issues the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection took with the water district, but Superintendent Roger Sadoski contested the accuracy of some of the report.

“The water is safe to drink. There really is nothing that will harm anybody,” Sadoski said. “Obviously, the state has a lot of rules and regulations to follow, but they’re not questioning the potability of the water, but just some requirements to keep it safe. But there is no immediate threat to the water.”

The survey was sent to the Board of Water Commissioners on June 28. Chairman David Wells was unavailable for comment.

The report gives a July 30 deadline for at least a timeline to address these issues. Sadoski said he has spoken with the DEP’s western Massachusetts representatives, Doug Paine and Vipin Sumani, regarding the report, some of the inaccuracies he saw in it and the deadline he said is unlikely to be met because of the district’s short staffing.

“I discussed some of their findings and they’re going to do a little more research to make sure their findings are accurate,” Sadoski said.

MassDEP declined to comment on Sadoski’s claims that the report is not completely accurate.

The state agency found what it classifies as a significant deficiency regarding staffing. The district turnover, including the departure of Scott McCarthy, is well documented. McCarthy, a licensed operator, quit at the end of May.

“We know it’s very critical to have people who are trained and very knowledgeable,” Sadoski said. “We didn’t need the state to point that out.”

Sadoski’s not sure what the district needs to do to comply with staffing quotas by the MassDEP. Recently, as noted in the report, the district has been in negotiations with Amherst to establish a memorandum of understanding so that when South Deerfield needs another operator, they can call in someone from Amherst. It’s unclear whether this will be sufficient in the long run, Sadoski said.

Sadoski said the state’s claim that the district does not have a timer or a toggle switch for the manual operation of the chemical injection pump is inaccurate.

“I don’t know where they got that information,” Sadoski said.

The state alleges the district’s chemical addition report does not include information on sodium hypochlorite and potassium permanganate added to the water supply system. Sadoski said this is the first time he’s seen the survey mention sodium hypochlorite and as for the potassium, “I believe that’s all there, so I don’t know why that’s” in the report.

Sadoski said the district has a capital improvement plan, while the state says it does not have a copy of it or could not find it. Also, the state report says the district did not send inspection reports for three out of its four tanks and that the lone inspection report was found to be insufficient.

“I thought we sent them copies,” Sadoski said. “Once again, I don’t know if they didn’t get the copies.”

The report advised the district to follow proper maintenance of the distribution system, including the appropriate pipe replacement and repair procedures, pointing specifically to asbestos pipe replacement.

“They maybe just saw we have asbestos pipe in it and it’s never been in a survey before,” Sadoski said. “So they just put it in, I guess, to remind us there are certain standards you have to meet.”

The state says there aren’t continuous handrails for the stairways connected to the Whately Reservoir, to which Sadoski said, “I thought they were continuous handrails. I don’t know what they mean by continuous handrails.” The stairs have been there since before he came to the district and it’s never been an issue before, he said.

The report recommends for the district to create a timeline for its dam inspections, but Sadoski said the district regularly does them. “I don’t know why that’s on (the report), because we do them.”

Author: Going Green

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