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As a senior municipal official representing the interests of your community, you should be aware that the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and the Massachusetts Drinking Water Regulations apply to all public water systems. The primary purpose of these regulations is to ensure that the public is provided with water that is safe to drink. The quality of the water must be maintained from the source to the consumer.
The delivery of high quality drinking water starts with a protected source - the public well, reservoir, or river intake. MassDEP provides each public water system with a Source Water Assessment and Protection (SWAP) report that includes recommendations as to how a community can reduce the risk of contamination. As a senior official of your community, you should request a copy of this report and if appropriate, request a briefing by the manager of your public water system. (Visit to view the most recent SWAP report for your system.) Although the Water Department is responsible for source protection, other municipal departments can provide significant support. Planning Boards issue permits for land use development. Fire Departments respond to spills of hazardous materials. Boards of Health regulate septic systems and Boards of Selectmen recommend budget expenditures at town meetings.
The Water Department tests drinking water on a regular basis for over 100 possible contaminants at various locations in the system, including customers' homes. Communities must send these test results to MassDEP and they become public records. The processes used to treat drinking water vary and depend on the compounds that need to be removed. The more compounds that need to be removed (whether naturally occurring or man-made), the more complex the treatment system required. The Water Department must use licensed operators to run the treatment plant. The number of operators and the skills they must have depends on the size of the system and the types of treatment.
The Water Department delivers drinking water to your community using a network of pump stations, storage tanks and underground pipes. Regular maintenance and replacement of these assets by licensed operators ensures that the system remains reliable and maintains high-quality water all the way to the end customer.
MassDEP regularly inspects municipal water systems and provides a comprehensive written report to the Water Department. Municipal officials should discuss these reports with the water system operators and familiarize themselves with any actions recommended or required to improve system reliability.
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