Issuance and Removal of Drinking Water Public Health Orders

Deficiency, public notification, and termination criteria of Boil, Do Not Drink, and Do Not Use drinking water public health orders.

Table of Contents

Overview

In accordance with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 111, Section 160, "the department may...make rules and regulations and issue such orders as in its opinion may be necessary to prevent the pollution and to secure the sanitary protection of all such waters used as sources of water supply and to ensure the delivery of a fit and pure water supply to all consumers."  The MassDEP policy 87-06, Boil Water Orders, Do Not Drink Order, Do Not Use Order, describes the procedures used when, in the judgement of the MassDEP, a Boil Water Order may be issued to respond to a threat to the public from the presence of or probably presence of pathogenic microorganisms in a public water system.

If you have questions on this information or need to issue a BOIL WATER, DO NOT DRINK, or DO NOT USE order please contact your regional MassDEP office (see Additional Resources below) or MassDEP's Emergency Response (see Additional Resources below).

Boil Water Orders

The MassDEP Drinking Water Program uses the following minimum procedures when deciding to issue a BOIL WATER Order:

  1. Deficiencies Requiring Boil Water Order

    1. Acute bacteria violation (fecal and/or E. Coli present – issued after confirmation samples are taken) or repeated non-acute bacteria violations.
    2. Turbidity MCL violation (turbidity above 5.49 NTU)
    3. Unchlorinated surface water entering system from an approved source.
    4. Unfiltered surface water entering system from an emergency, back-up or other unapproved sources.
    5. System without water or with negative pressure zones. (For more information see MassDEP guide to public water system response to loss of pressure to all or part of the distribution system).
    6. None or inadequate disinfection on a system that is required to disinfect.
    7. Dead animals (mice, rats, birds, etc.) observed in an unchlorinated groundwater source.
    8. In lieu of routine bacteria sampling where chronic contamination has occurred or is suspected.
    9. Equipment failure resulting in inadequate disinfection and/or filtration of a surface water, or ground water under the influence of surface water supply, when the equipment is not immediately repairable.
  2. Providing Public Notification

    When a Public Water System is issued a Boil Water Order the system shall immediately notify the local Board of health and consumers of its issuance. Notification shall be made with the attached Boil Water Order notice or other notices generated by the MassDEP. Any modifications to the notice must be approved by the MassDEP prior to distribution. Notification may be made through radio, television or a daily newspaper for community systems where hand delivery is impractical. In some instances the MassDEP or US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may require additional and other types of public notification.

  3. Removing a Boil Water Order

    1. Correction of Deficiency

      A boil water order can be removed from a public water system when MassDEP determines that correction of deficiency and satisfactory sampling is completed.

      Boil Water Order Deficiency Correction Chart
      Deficiency Minimum Corrective Action
      Acute bacterial violation

      Establish or reestablish disinfection and maintain residuals.

      When the existing or potential microbiological contamination cannot be attributed to a specific correctable incident, the supplier should be directed to implement a cross connection survey and initiate symptomatic treatment procedures including, but not limited to, increased disinfection and flushing.

      For persistent microbiological system failures see Sampling Duration information below.

      Turbidity MCL Violation Turbidity drops to acceptable levels throughout system.
      Unchlorinated surface water entering the system Reestablish disinfection
      Unfiltered surface water from an emergency source. Suspend use of emergency source.
      System without water or negative pressure Reestablish service and maintain positive pressure. If directed by MassDEP perform cross connection survey and initiate symptomatic treatment procedures including, but not limited to, increased disinfection and flushing.
      No chlorination on system with repeated nonacute bacteria violations Reestablish chlorination.
      No disinfection on a system that is required to disinfect Reestablish disinfection
      Dead animals in groundwater source Removal of remains and disinfection of the system.
      Order used in lieu of sampling. Reestablish sampling.
      Equipment failure. Repair or replacement of equipment.

       

    2. Boil Water Order Samples

      The Boil Water Order samples noted below must be taken on the same day, at separate locations, when possible. The samples taken must be representative of the distribution system affected by the Boil Water Order and must all be negative for total coliform bacteria in order to remove the Boil Water Order.

      The required number of samples taken to lift a "Boil Order" shall be determined by the DWP and, at a minimum, correspond to the population requirement of the Total Coliform Rule (TCR) but in no case shall be fewer than three. Population determination for the Boil Water Order shall be based upon the affected area of the Boil Water Order.

       
      Population Served No. of Samples (for ground or surface water)
      25-100 3
      1001-2000 4
      2001-3000 5
      3001-4000 6
      4001-5000 7
      5001-7500 8
      7501-9999 9
      10000 or more 10

      Sampling Duration for Incident Specific-Microbiological

      When the existing or potential microbiological contamination can be attributed to a specific incident (such as a pipe break, equipment failure, etc.) and the supplier has taken appropriate corrective actions, two consecutive days of compliance with the MCL for bacteria is generally sufficient to confirm that a threat to public health no longer exists. When the potential microbiological contamination cannot be attributed to a specific incident (such as a pipe break, equipment failure, etc.) and the supplier has taken appropriate corrective actions, three consecutive days of compliance with the MCL for bacteria is generally sufficient to confirm that a threat to public health no longer exists.

      Sampling Duration and other actions for Short Term Microbiological System Failures

      When the existing or potential microbiological contamination cannot be attributed to a specific correctable incident and lasts for several days or weeks, the supplier will be directed to implement a cross connection survey and initiate symptomatic treatment procedures including, but not limited to, increased disinfection and flushing. When the system responds positively to these procedures within three weeks, two weeks (at least eight monitoring days) of compliance with the MCL for bacteria is generally sufficient to confirm that the threat to public health no longer exists.

      Sampling Duration and other actions for Persistent Microbiological System Failures

      When the existing or potential microbiological contamination cannot be attributed to a specific correctable incident and lasts for several weeks, and a cross connection survey and symptomatic treatment procedures including, but not limited to, increased disinfection and flushing have been completed and the contamination is not resolved, a persistent microbiological system failure is occurring. The MassDEP recognizes that coliform bacteria can colonize public water supply distribution systems. Experience has shown that such situations are very complex, difficult to correct, and frustrating. The risk is two-fold: first that pathogenic organisms may be present, and, second that high background levels mask the ability to use the coliform test to monitor for specific contamination incidents such as cross connections. In these cases speciation is required after three weeks of experiencing these problems, or as specified by the drinking water section chief. MassDEP will review the speciation results and make a determination as to the type of contamination and its impact on public health. If necessary MassDEP will convene the Special Interagency Task Force on Microbial Contamination of Drinking Water Systems in accordance with MassDEP policy 87-06, Boil Water Orders, Do Not Drink Order, Do Not Use Orders.

 

Additional Resources

Do Not Drink Orders

The MassDEP Drinking Water Program uses the following minimum procedures when deciding to issue a DO NOT DRINK WATER Order:

  1. Deficiencies Requiring Do Not Drink Water Order

    Do Not Drink orders are necessary when the Drinking Water Program (DWP) is concerned about contamination in a water supply where that supply meets one or more of the following criteria and the contaminant(s) of concern is not potentially hazardous through other exposure routes and characteristics like inhalation and flammability:

    1. the supply is contaminated with a known chemical or radiological contaminant but the concentration is unknown or
    2. the supply is grossly contaminated with bacteria but boiling or disinfection is not available or practical or is potentially hazardous due to other threats.

    Examples of situations which may present a threat to public health and require the issuance of a Do Not Drink order include, but are not limited to, the following:

    1. Chemical MCL, Health Advisory Violation, or Other Known Chemical Hazard (e.g., water treatment chemical overfeed) Note: some corrective actions used to help mitigate a water treatment chemical overfeed, such as extensive flushing of the distribution system, may create other potential problems (e.g., no or low system pressure in a significant portion of the distribution system, reverse flows with the potential for increase in HPC/bacteria) that would call for issuing a Do Not Use or Do Not Drink Order to a Boil Water Order rather than lifting the Do Not Use or Do Not Drink Order directly.
    2. Radiological MCL, or Health Advisory Violation

     

  2. Providing Public Notification

    When a Public Water System is issued a Do Not Drink Water order the system shall immediately notify consumers or at least within 24 hours of its issuance. Notification shall be made with the attached DO NOT DRINK WATER notice or other notices generated by the MassDEP. Any modifications to the notice must be approved by the DWP prior to distribution. Notification may be made through radio, television or a daily newspaper for community systems where hand delivery is impractical. In some instances the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may require additional public notification.

  3. Removing a Do Not Drink Water Order

    1. Correction of Deficiency

      A Do Not Drink Water order can be removed from a public water system when MassDEP determines that the deficiency has been corrected and satisfactory sampling and analysis is completed.

       

      Do Not Drink Water Order Deficiency Correction
      Deficiency Minimum Corrective Action
      Potential or actual chemical or radiological contamination. Satisfactory analytical testing results.
      System without water or negative pressure. Reestablish service and maintain positive pressure.
      Equipment failure Repair or replacement of equipment
      Acute bacterial violation. Establish or reestablish disinfection and maintain residuals.

       

    2. Do Not Drink Water Order Samples

      The required number, type and location of samples taken to lift a "Do Not Drink Water Order" shall be determined by the MassDEP. These samples at a minimum should be:

      • Representative of the distribution system affected by the Do Not Drink Water Order;
      • Be below all standards set by MassDEP in order to remove the Do Not Drink Water Order and;
      • Represent the water served to all consumers.

       

Additional Resources

Do Not Use Orders

The MassDEP Drinking Water Program uses the following minimum procedures when deciding to issue a DO NOT USE WATER Order:

  1. Deficiencies Requiring a Do Not Use Water Order

    Do Not Use orders are necessary when MassDEP is concerned about chemical or radiological contamination in a water supply that meets any of the following criteria:

    1. the contaminant and or its concentration is unknown or the contaminant and concentration is known but if ingested would present an unacceptable short term risk to public health and/or
    2. the contaminant is potentially hazardous through other modes and characteristics like inhalation and flammability.

    Examples of situations which may present a threat to public health and require the issuance of a Do Not USE order include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Use of Water of Unknown Water Quality, when non-specific chemical contamination is suspected (e.g., unknown water quality may result from vandalism or suspected terrorism to water pumping station, treatment plant, storage tank, distribution system; or bulk delivery of inappropriate chemical to WTF)
    • Chemical MCL, Health Advisory Violation, or Other Chemical Hazard (e.g., water treatment chemical overfeed)
    • Credible threats to a water supply or system

     

  2. Providing Public Notification

    When a Public Water System is issued a Do Not Use Water order the system shall immediately notify consumers or at least within 24 hours of its issuance. Notification shall be made with the attached Do Not Use Water notice or other notices generated by the MassDEP. Any modifications to the notice must be approved by the MassDEP prior to distribution. Notification may be made through radio, television or a daily newspaper for community systems where hand delivery is impractical. In some instances the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may require additional public notification.

  3. Removing a Do Not Use Water Order

    1. Correction of Deficiency

      A Do Not Use Water order can be removed from a public water system when MassDEP determines that correction of deficiency and satisfactory sampling is completed.

       

      Do Not Use Water (for any purpose) Deficiency Corrective Action
      Deficiency Minimum Corrective Action
      Unknown water quality Satisfactory sampling results in compliance with MCL or MassDEP health advisory. Compliance with other appropriate actions requested by MassDEP. E.g., cross connection survey, monitoring wells results.
      Potential or actual chemical or radiological contamination Satisfactory sampling results in compliance with MCL or MassDEP health advisory. Compliance with other appropriate actions requested by MassDEP. E.g., cross connection survey, monitoring wells results.
      Equipment failure Repair or replacement of equipment and satisfactory sampling results

       

    2. Do Not Use Water Order Samples

      The required number, type and location of samples taken to lift a "Do Not Use Water Order" shall be determined by the MassDEP and, at a minimum, representative of the distribution system affected by the Do Not Use Water Order. All required sample results must be below all standards set by MassDEP in order to remove the Do Not Use Water Order and represent the water served to all consumers.

Additional Resources

Contact

Phone

Program Director 617-292-5770

Online

MassDEP Drinking Water Program program.director-dwp@state.ma.us

Address

MassDEP Boston
1 Winter Street
Boston, MA 02108

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