Friday Update: Claremont Lifts Boil Water Order
Students Saban Wein, left, and Dylan Adamovich, both of Claremont, haul 21/2 gallon containers of water to the art room on the third floor of the New England Classical Academy in Claremont yesterday. A parent donated 130 gallons of water to the school while the city investigates possible contamination of the water supply. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Stone Arch Bakery manager Doreen Lathrop washes dishes at the Claremont bakery. She was rinsing the dishes in a bleach and water mixture as city officials investigate possible contamination of the water supply. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Claremont officials lifted the “boil water” order on city residents and businesses Friday morning, after getting test results showing there was no contamination of the public drinking water supply.
The order was imposed Wednesday after E. coli bacteria was detected at an undisclosed Washington Street location during routine testing. Officials then conducted follow-up testing and issued a press release this morning saying “the problem has been corrected and it is no longer necessary to boil or use bottled water.”
The press release did not specify what the initial problem was.
Valley News Correspondent Patrick O’Grady is doing additional reporting and will have more details in Saturday’s Valley News.
The following article appeared in the Friday, Dec. 7 edition of the Valley News:
Claremont — The city appeared to take first full day of the “boil water” order in stride yesterday, as residents and businesses seemed to regard the safety precaution as an inconvenience more than anything else.
“There is no reason to panic,” said retiree Donald Dustin, who was buying three gallons of bottled water at a supermarket for himself and a friend. “All you need to do is boil your water and you’ll be safe. That’s it. I’m sure this scare will pass in a day or two.”
The city was put under a boil order after E.coli bacteria was detected in A sample of the public water supply taken Tuesday at an undisclosed Washington Street location during routine testing. Before the order can be lifted, two samples taken from that same location must show no evidence of E.coli.
The first follow-up sample was taken Wednesday and the second one yesterday. It takes 24 hours to produce results. City officials did not say yesterday whether the first follow-up sample sent to a lab in Concord was free of E.coli.
Meanwhile, some restaurants sold canned soda, supermarkets stocked shelves with bottled water and schools, coffee shops and others serving food took steps to keep diners safe, such as adding chlorine to dishwater. Except for notices plastered on restaurant windows, there was little out of the ordinary.
Not all businesses were so lucky, however. Two meat-processing businesses, North Country Smokehouse and Liberal Beef, shut down their meat processing operations when the order came out.
“We are regulated by the USDA and the USDA dictates we use potable water,” said North Country owner Mike Satzow, explaining why they stopped production. “We don’t want a product that is not safe.”
Satzow said regardless of the boil order, his business always operates under strict sanitizing rules to guard against “adulteration” in the production process.
“We do that to protect our products and employees,” he said. “This what you have to do to be in the food industry.”
North Country is across from the airport in West Claremont and is several miles from the Washington Street business where the E.coli was detected.
Spokespersons for the Hannaford and Market Basket supermarkets on Washington Street said they shutdown the “misters” used to keep some produce fresh when the boil order came out.
“We did dispose of some product,” said Hannaford’s External Communications Director Eric Blum from the company headquarters in Maine. “We wanted to be as careful as possible.”
Dave McLean with Demoulas in Tewksbury, Mass., owner of Market Basket, said they too moved quickly.
“We reacted immediately and turned off the misters,” McLean said. “We didn’t wait for officials to come and tell us to do it.”
The supermarket also dumped the ice used to keep seafood cold and had more ice delivered.
The “boil” order came from the Department of Environmental Services about 10:30 Wednesday morning and was immediately communicated to the SAU 6 office and Valley Regional Hospital. The school district sent out a “reverse” 911 call to all families and that appears to have ignited a social media frenzy.
Some business owners said they found out by word of mouth, not from the city’s official announcement, which came out around 2 p.m. and was posted on the city’s website and cable access station as well as being sent to more than a half dozen media outlets including newspapers and television and radio stations.
Public Works Director Bruce Temple said yesterday that after the initial communications to the school district and hospital, the city waited until Rick Skarinka, an engineer with the Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau of the Department of Environmental Services, arrived to plan and coordinate the notification process.
“What we didn’t want to do is randomly put information out there and not have it be accurate,” said Temple. “The challenge is to get information out there and all at the same time. We had to be sure it was accurate.”
The notice that ultimately came out explained the order and included detailed information on how to make the water safe and which activities, from showering to washing dishes, could be done safely.
Fire Chief Rick Bergeron, who is also the city’s emergency management director, said yesterday that issuing a citywide notice less than four hours after the first call was a major accomplishment.
“What you have to keep in mind is that the sample was done Tuesday and it took 24 hours to get the results,” Bergeron said. “So there is a built-in time lapse of 24 hours before the problem is identified. Given that fact, and then with the city ready in about three hours, that is pretty good.”
Skarinka said the city more than met state requirements for notification.
“We require them to do it (put out a notice) within 24 hours,” he said. “The action taken by the city more than met that requirement.”
He also said the state requires notification be sent to media outlets but restaurants do not have to be individually contacted.
“It is a best practice and the city chose to do that on their own,” he said.
Besides a posting on the city website, Temple said the Planning and Zoning office sent the notice via email to a long list of businesses. Though no one could recall this ever happening before in Claremont, Bergeron said if there is a next time, the lessons learned this week could be valuable.
“I think we did well, but it can always be improved,” the chief said.
He said the New Hampshire 911 Communication has installed a reverse 911 system that should be available to cities and towns to connect to in the not too distant future. Under such a system, the city could develop a target list of numbers and when an emergency occurs, send an email notice to the state. It will be transferred to voice and sent to the target list.
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at email@example.com.