Background

On May 2, 2008, MassDEP promulgated revisions to the Massachusetts Drinking Water Regulations; 310 CMR 22.00 regarding emergency response. The new regulations include specific requirements for emergency response plans (ERPs) and notification requirements for reporting emergencies to MassDEP and the local Board of Health. Each Public Water System (PWS) is expected to comply with the revised regulations.

Definition of Emergency

Section 310 CMR 22.02 defines "Emergency" as follows:

Emergency means any situation or event, natural or man-made, which causes or threatens to cause damage to a water supply system such that there will be a disruption of normal water supply functions. The effects can be on a portion or all of the system and may require an immediate action in order to protect public health.

Emergency Response Plans

Section 310 CMR 22.04(13) requires that each water supplier prepare and keep in an easily accessible location an Emergency Response Plan prepared in accordance with 310 CMR 22.04 (13) and Massachusetts Drinking Water Guidelines and Policies for Public Water Supplies, Chapter 12 - Emergency Response Planning Requirements Guidance including Appendix O - Handbook for Water Supply Emergencies. The ERP shall include detailed steps that the PWS will take to respond to potential or actual emergencies including:

  1. Loss of water supply from a source;
  2. Loss of water supply due to major component failure;
  3. Damage to power supply equipment or loss of power;
  4. Contamination of water in the distribution system from backflow or other causes;
  5. Collapse of a reservoir, reservoir roof, or pump house structure;
  6. Break in a transmission or distribution line that could result in a loss of service to customers for more than four hours;
  7. Potential or imminent threat of chemical or microbiological contamination of the water supply over limits specified by the Department's Office of Research and Standards' as set forth in 2014 Standards and Guidelines for Contaminants in Massachusetts Drinking Waters pdf format of 2014 Drinking Water Contaminants Standards & Guidelines doc format of 2014 Drinking Water Contaminants Standards & Guidelines

    The Standards & Guidelines for Contaminants in Massachusetts Drinking Water are intended to provide the public with information on the safety and integrity of drinking water in Massachusetts. A maximum contaminant level (MCL), the highest concentration that is allowed in drinking water, is provided for each contaminant, with technical explanations and references. Last updated April 2014.

  8. Potential or imminent threat of an overfeed of an approved drinking water treatment chemical into the system;
  9. An act of vandalism or sabotage that has the potential to impact or impacts water quality or the quantity of water available to the system.
  10. A shortage or lack of resources that could affect the operations of the system, such as:
    1. Staffing shortages;
    2. Receipt of notice from a power utility of lengthy power outages; or
    3. Imminent depletion of treatment chemical inventory; and
  11. Any other failure of part or all of the water supply system due to equipment failure, human acts (deliberate or accidental) or natural or human made disasters.

The ERP shall include a description of the procedures, structures and equipment used to respond to potential or actual emergencies including:

  1. Identification of alternate sources of water supply for use during an emergency and procedures for bringing such sources on-line;
  2. Procedures for notifying the Department and other regulatory agencies, the news media, and consumers of the emergency and the actions, if any, consumers should take during the emergency, including the use of personal protective equipment, if necessary, and water-use guidelines or restrictions;
  3. Procedures for communication, including a clear outline of the lines communication among system personnel and between the water supplier and local, state and federal officials and the public;
  4. Procedures for testing and maintaining all facility communications and alarm systems as necessary to ensure their proper operation;
  5. Procedures for disinfecting and testing the distribution system after an emergency in order to return it to service;
  6. Identification of critical system components that must remain in service or be returned to service quickly;
  7. An inventory of equipment needs and availability, including the location of existing emergency equipment, generators and spill response materials, identification of additional emergency equipment needs, and procedures for obtaining additional services and equipment, including critical spare parts;
  8. Procedures for implementing any interconnections with other public water systems and any other arrangements in effect with neighboring communities or other public water
  9. A description of the duties and responsibilities of key personnel who will be involved in emergency response actions, and a procedure for contacting and scheduling staff;
  10. A plan for annually training staff and local partners in emergency response procedures to ensure that they are familiar with the all emergency procedures, equipment and systems; and
  11. Any other matter identified by the Department in Massachusetts Drinking Water Guidelines and Policies for Public Water Supplies, Chapter 12 - Emergency Response Planning Requirements including Appendix O - Handbook for Water Supply Emergencies.


Emergency Reporting

Section 310 CMR 22.15(9) requires each PWS to notify MassDEP and the local Board of Health after the occurrence of any of the following incidents or emergencies that result in the consumers of the system receiving water that does not meet required or routine quantity or quality conditions:

  1. Emergencies or incidents requiring notification within 2 hours:
    1. Loss of water or drop in pressure to less than 20 psi, affecting 50% or more of consumers for a system serving less than 10,000 persons;
    2. Loss of water or drop in pressure to less than 20 psi, affecting 5,000 or more of consumers for a system serving 10,000 or more persons;
    3. Chemical or microbiological contamination of the water supply in exceedance of limits specified by the Department's Office of Research and Standards as set forth in the Standards and Guidelines for Contaminants in Massachusetts Drinking Waters.
    4. Discovery of malicious intent or an act of vandalism, which may impact a system component.
    5. Any consumer complaint in which the water may have caused physical injury.
    6. A pattern of unusual customer complaints about the water quality such as taste, odor, etc.
    7. Any other emergency as determined by the Department in writing.
  2. Emergencies or incidents requiring notification within 24 hours:
    1. Loss of water supply from a source;
    2. Loss of water supply due to major component failure;
    3. Damage to power supply equipment or loss of power;
    4. Contamination of water in the distribution system from backflow or cross connection incident;
    5. Collapse of a reservoir, reservoir roof, or pump house structure;
    6. Break in a transmission or distribution line that results in a loss of service or drop in pressure to less than 20 psi to more than 100 consumers for more than four hours;
    7. Chemical or microbiological contamination of the water supply, including overfeed of drinking water treatment chemicals
    8. Any other failure of part or all of the water supply system due to equipment failure, human acts (deliberate or accidental) or natural or human made disasters.


Emergency Response Reports

Section 310 CMR 22.15(9)(c) requires each PWS to file an Emergency Response Report within 30 days of any of the emergencies identified in 310 CMR 22.04(13)(a), a Level III or higher emergency, as described in Massachusetts Drinking Water Guidelines and Policies for Public Water Supplies, Appendix O - Handbook for Water Supply Emergencies, or any cross connection problem that results in contamination of the water provided by the public water system. The Emergency Response Report must include the following information at a minimum:

  1. Detailed timeline of the incident and response;
  2. Evaluation of the incident;
  3. Recommendations for improvements to emergency response planning, training and communication;
  4. Recommendations for improvements to water system operations, staffing and budget;
  5. Timeline for making all recommended changes;
  6. Updated emergency response plan except for those items that are security sensitive; and
  7. A completed Emergency Response Checklist. (a copy of the Emergency Response Checklist form is contained in the Massachusetts Drinking Water Guidelines and Policies for Public Water Supplies, Appendix O - Handbook for Water Supply Emergencies, Attachment E).


Section 310 CMR 22.15(9)(d) requires each PWS to complete an Emergency Response Checklist within 10 days of any Level I or II emergency, as described in Massachusetts Drinking Water Guidelines and Policies for Public Water Supplies, Appendix O - Handbook for Water Supply Emergencies, and maintain the document on file for 5 years for the Department's review.