Water & Sewer superintendent provides update on unidirectional flushing

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – Water & Sewer Superintendent Dan Rowley presented an update on the status of the unidirectional flushing initiative to the Board of Selectmen March 24.

As a result of funding obtained at the 2019 fall Special Town Meeting, the Water and Sewer Division entered into a contract with Hydra Tech Inc. of Sterling to conduct the flushing which began in December. 

“The town of Shrewsbury engaged water consulting firm, Tata and Howard, to develop a unidirectional flushing program. The program was the first step in formally adopting this process, which has been proven to be very effective in other communities,” he explained. “This engineered program focuses on isolating small sections of water main, which are flushed systematically starting at a clean source such as a tank or the water treatment plant, then mains are sequentially flushed outwardly.”

“Overall, we have seen a reduction in discolored water calls throughout town. Since the flushing was started, the lines are clearing up nicely and we have only had one discolored water issue,” Rowley remarked. “We have received feedback from residents that this program has improved water quality. We have seen the highest benefits in flushing lines that are dead ends, such as streets with cul-de-sacs.”

The current contract includes four sections to be flushed, which were selected based on water quality calls received by the department in past years. 

He reported that Hydra Tech has completed one section and 40 percent of another which includes a portion of Gulf Street, Wachusett Avenue, the Planets, a section of Spring Street, a portion of Main Street between Maple Avenue and Monadnock Drive (including adjacent streets), Maple Avenue from Main Street to Rosedale Avenue, and Grafton Street from Main Street to Stonybrook Lane.   

Hydra Tech has identified a valve on the verge of failure at the intersection of Spring and Holman streets and another that was closed completely resulting in reduced water supply to Spring Terrace.  

“Through this proactive maintenance program, we were able to replace that valve before it failed,” Rowley said. “As the program progresses, we anticipate identifying and addressing additional valves that have the potential to fail. The contract with Hydra Tech included replacing up to 10 percent of the existing gate valves based on the lack of valve exercising in the past.”  

Because of COVID-19 future flushing has been temporarily suspended because when maintenance is performed on the water distribution system, there is an inherent risk of causing an unexpected failure with a valve or section of water main. These repairs require the suspension of water service.  

“Once concerns regarding the Coronavirus have subsided… we hope to complete the remaining sections included in the contract before the demand for water increases as summer approaches,” he noted.

Selectman Beth Casavant commended Rowley on the communications coming from his department to keep the community informed.

“I have noticed a decrease in the amount of people contacting me directly asking for help with water that had been discolored so I’m thinking that has something to do with unidirectional flushing,” she remarked.