Many Missed Royalton Boil Water Order

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2017

South Royalton — A precautionary boil-water order issued by Royalton officials on Tuesday has left some residents and business-owners wondering if the Royalton Water Department is making an adequate effort to reach everyone connected to the system when such alerts are put out.

The boil order went out Tuesday afternoon when a break occurred in the water main during sewer upgrade work off Rainbow Street. Cross-contamination was unlikely because the new sewer line was not yet active, but a boil notice was required anyway, they said.

Chlorine testing in the water system showed normal readings on Wednesday morning, officials said, and coliform test results are expected this morning. The advisory remained in place through Wednesday.

“At this time no problem is anticipated,” water plant operator Wayne Manning said in an email on Wednesday.

South Royalton residents offered mixed reviews of town officials’ efforts to get the word out, with some business owners saying they wished they had been directly notified by the water district.

Bennett Zapletal, owner of Crossroads Bar & Grill, said his staff learned about the order from a customer Tuesday evening.

The customer asked whether the restaurant was still open, explaining that he or she had heard there was a boil water order in effect, Zapletal said.

Although town and water district officials posted multiple warnings on Facebook and on the town website — a Facebook warning went up as early as 3:17 p.m. on Tuesday — Zapletal said he received no direct communication.

“No phone calls, no nothing,” he said. “I think the least they could have done is call businesses and people in town and say, ‘Hey, there’s a boil order in effect.’ Who checks the town of Royalton website in the middle of the afternoon to see if the water is OK, especially when no one has mentioned anything?”

Manning and the water district clerk did not immediately respond to follow-up questions.

At the nearby South Royalton Market, manager Adam Smith said the boil order had been a minor disruption, but echoed Zapletal’s request for timelier notification.

“There should be a way, an official way, of getting to at least leave a message on people’s answering machines or something like that,” he said. “If they’re asking people not to drink the water, they ought to at least communicate that fact.”

Law students had been coming through the store all day Wednesday to buy bottled water, and the store has been separately boiling the water for its coffee machines, which don’t reach 200 degrees, he said.

“It’s a bit of a hassle, but we’re making do,” Smith said.

Officials at some of the town’s major institutions said they had received direct notice, however.

“They’ve let us know what’s going on,” Dean Stearns, principal of the South Royalton School, said in a phone message Wednesday.

Stearns said town officials had called their school counterparts on Tuesday night, giving educators time to alert parents that they should send clean water with their children the next day.

“South Royalton School seems to be coping with the need very well,” Stearns said, noting that potable water jugs were set up by all school drinking fountains and that the school had received donations of drinking water from residents.

Over at Vermont Law School, spokeswoman Maryellen Apelquist said the Royalton Water Department had directly notified the school, which shared the order with all students, faculty and staff.

Apelquist added that the campus cafe was following guidelines established by the state health department for boil water advisories.

Based on information from the VLS Office of Student Affairs, “We have received no indication that the boil notice has caused any disruption among our students,” Apelquist said.

Royalton Selectboard members on Wednesday said they had heard of the boil water notice just before their scheduled meeting on Tuesday, but said supervision of the water district was not their purview.

Selectwoman Sandy Conrad said a resident who used the water system had angrily told the board at that meeting that he hadn’t received word of the order. But later that evening, he followed up by email, saying a water district official had called to notify him, she said.

“I have to make an assumption that they called all the users, but if there’s an issue I didn’t know about it,” Conrad said, adding that the Prudential Committee, not the Selectboard, oversees the water district.

Members of that committee could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Selectman Tim Dreisbach said he expected the board to address the notification process again, even though the matter fell outside its authority.

“We take that safety seriously,” he said, “so we do want to follow up with the people directly involved so that they’re on top of it in the future.”

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or at 603-727-3242.