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Elevated Manganese Levels In Town Water Present Health Risk, Especially For Very Young or Pregnant

by Connie Sartini
  Groton Water Superintendent Tom Orcutt advised the Select Board of issues at the Whitney Well where there are elevated levels of manganese. “The issue has been slowly creeping up on us over the past five to 10 years,” Orcutt said, adding that every three years there is a full analysis for manganese in the town wells, but manganese is now being monitored every quarter.
  “The tests have revealed that manganese is slowly increasing in both the Whitney Wells.” He added that testing is now done every quarter with the levels hovering at 0.3 and 0.4 mgL (milligrams per Liter)
    The Mass DEP Health Advisory recommends limited consumption of less that 1 mgL to decrease neurological effects and that infants should not be given water with manganese of greater than 0.3mg/L for more than 10 days per year.
    Orcutt stressed that here are human health impacts of over exposure to manganese that can cause neurological impacts. Infants and children less than a year old are the most susceptible. Manganese in the water supply can also lead to learning disabilities.
   Bathing and showering in water containing manganese does not increase your exposure since manganese does not penetrate the skin and doesn’t get into the air. Manganese is unlikely to produce other types of toxicity such as cancer or reproductive damage.
   Young children appear to absorb more manganese than older age groups, but excrete less. This makes it particularly important for pregnant women and children to have drinking water with levels of manganese within guidelines. 
      Orcutt reported that a letter came to the Town in February and Mass. DEP has set a date of September 1, 2019 for the Groton Water Department to come up with potential solutions. He advised the Select Board that the Water Dept. is working very closely with consultants to prepare a response and a remediation plan to reduce the manganese levels coming from the two wells. He stressed that the addition of chemicals was not an option as it will not remove the manganese from the water. “If we were to develop the Shattuck well site and not use the Whitney Well, it will not be sufficient for our daily needs.” Whatever is determined Orcutt added, “It will be a costly endeavor.” It is estimated remediation could be as high as $7.5M.
   “What we would like to do is for the DEP to work with the Board of Water Commissioners on an acceptable treatment solution that is not only fiscally responsible but also meets the health requirements for potable drinking water.” 
  He noted that there is a possibility of adding onto current Treatment Facility at the Baddacook Pond Well site that currently treats water for iron and manganese. 
   One of the options under consideration is to have the water from the Whitney Pond Wells piped over to the Baddacook Well Facility for treatment. “The bigger question is what is affordable for our 1800 customers. It could cost over $7.5M.”
   He stressed that it could take a number of years to engineer and build a solution. In the meantime, testing will continue on a quarterly basis and results will be reported.
  Select Board member John Giger asked if this is the first time that the public has been made aware of the issue. Orcutt responded that the Health Advisory Notification was posted on the Water Dept. Website in March 2019 and Water Department customers receive information every year in the Customer Confidence Report.
   Orcutt said, “A homeowner could install a filter, but the DEP would not allow the Water Department to install them as a remediation solution. The DEP wants manganese treated at the source. They don’t allow us to do it because people forget to change the filter’s cartridges and this could lead to other health-related matters.”
   Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral found in soil, groundwater and surface water. It is naturally prevalent throughout the United States with higher concentrations in the Northeast.
   Orcutt showed the Board a map of communities in Central Massachusetts that are facing the same issues. According to Orcutt, “The Whitney Wells did not have iron manganese when originally constructed in the early 1980s but we noticed it increasing when we had a drought three years ago. The aquifer levels were impacted significantly and this only compounded the issues with manganese levels.”
  He suggested that it was prudent policy for homeowners on private wells also to have their water tested annually.
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