Water System

Sewer System

Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay

School Programs

Facts, Figures and Organization

Doing Business with MWRA

Go to mwra.com home

2002 Drinking Water Quality Test Results
for our Chicopee Valley Aqueduct System Customers


Questions and Answers

Q: How does MWRA protect my water?

A: MDC rangers, in partnership with MWRA, patrol the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs and incoming streams within the watershed every day. The water is tested daily for many parameters, and many more are performed weekly and monthly.

Operators monitor the water that comes to your community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Also, in response to any heightened alerts from the office of homeland security, MWRA has taken extra security steps, including locking down operational facilities, adding facility checks, increasing water quality monitoring and many other security measures.


Q: How would I know about a problem with the water supply?

A: MWRA and your local water department keep close watch on the water supply. The law requires that you be told if there is a problem with your water. You would get the news by radio, television and newspapers, from MWRA, your local health departments and the state Departments of Public Health (DPH) and Environmental Protection (DEP).

Q: What can I do to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water?

A: Be careful of places you may find lead in or near your home. Paint, soil, dust and some pottery may contain lead.

Run the tap until the water feels cold. Then fill a pitcher with water and place in the refrigerator for future use.

Never use hot water from the faucet for drinking or cooking – especially when making baby formula or other food for infants.

As your local water department if there are lead service pipes leading to your home.

Test your tap water. Contact MWRA for more tops and a lit of certified labs.

Call the Department of Public Health at (617) 284-8400 if you have questions.

Back to top

Q: My water is discolored or cloudy once in a while. Can I drink it?

A: Water is piped under pressure throughout the system. Sometimes air can become trapped in the water, causing cloudiness. This is only temporary and the water clears up in a short time.

Rust from old iron pipes can cause red, brown or yellow water. Changes in water speed or direction in your local pipes can cause rust to be carried along.

This can happen when the valves are being repaired, flushed or tested, or fire hydrants are in use. Wait until the water is clear before doing laundry to avoid staining clothes. You can safely drink, cook with or bathe in this water.

Back to top


Q: How does MWRA protect my water?

A: MDC rangers, in partnership with MWRA, patrol the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs and incoming streams within the watershed every day. The water is tested daily for many parameters and many more tests are performed weekly and monthly. Operators monitor the water that comes into your home 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Also, in response to any heightened alerts from the Department of Homeland Security, MWRA has taken extra security steps, including locking down operational facilities, adding facility checks, increasing water quality monitoring and many other security measures.

Back to top


Q: Is my water considered hard or soft?

A: Your tap water is considered soft, and is good for laundry and shampooing. Water is measured by “hardness”, which is the amount of dissolved minerals in your water. MWRA water has a hardness of about 12 mg/l (or less than 1 grain/gallon by older measures). For comparison, hard water would have greater than 75 mg/l hardness. If you have questions on the character of your water, feel free to contact us.

Back to top


Q: My water has a “strange” tast or odor sometimes. Can I drink it?

A: Sometimes algae can cause a “fishy” or “grassy” odor.
You can drink, cook with, or bathe in this water. Algae are normal, harmless plants that appear in the reservoirs at certain times of the year. MWRA treats the reservoirs to control algae. If you have a concern, call MWRA or your local water department.

Back to top

Facts about Sodium

Sodium in water contributes only a small fraction of a person's overall sodium intake (less than 10%). MWRA tests for sodium monthly and the highest level found was 5.4 mg/l (about 1.4 mg per glass).

Back to top

This report provides information on:
(click the links to jump to each section)
Where your water comes from
Improvements to the system
Test results: treated water
Information about lead
Test results: copper, lead and disinfection byproducts
This report is required under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act Public Law 104-182, Section1414(c)(4)
MWRA PWS ID# 6000000
Chicopee PWS ID# 1061000
South Hadley FD#1
PWS ID# 1339000
Wilbraham PWS ID# 1275000
Other helpful information about your drinking water
(click the links to jump to each section)
A letter from our Executive Director
Questions and answers
Facts about sodium
Important Information from EPA and DEP About...
Contaminants in Bottled Water and Tap Water
Drinking Water and People with Weakened Immune Systems


A letter from our Executive Director

June 1, 2003

Massachusetts Water Resources Authority
Charlestown Navy Yard • 100 First Avenue • Boston, MA 02129

Dear Customer,

I am pleased to send you this annual report on your drinking water quality. This report is prepared with the help of your local water and health department and it describes how we treat and deliver the tap water that reaches your home. It also includes the test results for 2002 - and the news is good. For example, in 2002, MWRA met the federal Lead and Copper Rule for the first time.

I also want you to know that we are nearing completion of several facilities designed to modernize our water system. The new water tunnel, treatment plant and storage projects to improve system reliability and security are the biggest advances in the regional water supply in many decades. We have made great progress on these programs over the last year and we will begin a two-year startup of the new water system this fall. We will be working closely with local water departments to ensure continuous operations as these new facilities are brought on-line.

I hope you will take a few moments to read this important report. MWRA has great confidence in the water we deliver to over 2 million customers and we hope that this report will give you the same confidence. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments about your water quality, or any of MWRA’s programs.

Frederick A. Laskey
Executive Director

Where does your water come from?

water map (small) MWRA Water Improvement Program Map

(click map for a larger view)


MWRA supplies wholesale water to three Chicopee Valley communities: Chicopee, South Hadley Fire District #1, and Wilbraham. MWRA also serves 40 cities and towns of greater Boston and MetroWest. Your water comes from Quabbin Reservoir. Water from the Ware River can add to the supply at times. The reservoir provides about 10 million gallons of high quality water each day to Chicopee, Wilbraham, and South Hadley Fire District #1.

Rain and snow falling on the watersheds - protected land around the reservoirs - turn into streams that flow to the reservoirs. Water comes in contact with soil, rock, plants, and other material as it follows nature’s path to the reservoirs. While this process helps clean the water, it can also dissolve and carry very small amounts of material into the reservoir. Minerals from soil and rock, including low levels of natural radioactive materials, do not usually cause problems in the water. But water can also transport contaminants from human and animal activity. These can include bacteria, viruses, pesticides, and fertilizers - some of which can cause illness. The test results in this report show that these are not a problem in Quabbin Reservoir’s watershed.
Quabbin watershed is protected naturally as over 90% of the watersheds are covered in forest and wetlands. About 83% of the total watershed land cannot be developed. The natural undeveloped watershed helps to keep MWRA water clean and clear. Also to ensure safety, the streams and the reservoir are tested often by the MWRA, and the watershed patrolled daily by the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC).

Back to top

Major Improvements Underway

Water must travel through the 15-mile Chicopee Valley Aqueduct and through some of the hundreds of miles of local distribution pipes under your streets before it reaches your tap. To continue providing high quality water, each part of the water system needs routine maintenance and, when necessary, major improvements or new facilities.

MWRA–Nash Hill Storage Tanks – The closed storage tank was completed in June 1999 to replace the Nash Hill open reservoir. This tank helps to lessen the risk that contamination will get into your tap water.

MWRA–Ware Disinfection Facility– The treatment facilities were completed in the summer of 2001. The plant provides a more consistent primary disinfection for your water.

Chicopee – Over 1,000 feet of 16-inch, 5000 feet of 12-inch, and 1,300 feet of 8-inch ductile iron water mains were installed in 2002 to provide additional fire protection and improve overall water quality. Additionally, in cooperation with MWRA, the Water Department is involved with designing system redundancy for the Chicopee Valley Aqueduct to ensure an uninterrupted supply of water.

Wilbraham – During 2002, the Water Department repaired 6 water main breaks and installed 22 new water services. Total water usage was 429, 877, 000 gallons, approximately 2.1% above the 9-year average consumption. We started construction on Pidgeon Drive, a street that previously had only private wells and no fire hydrants, a project that will provide Town water and fire protection to 13 homes. This work is anticipated to take two years and includes laying 1200 feet of 8" ductile iron water main, installing 3 fire hydrants and 13 water service laterals.

South Hadley Fire District No. 1 – In the past year, 38 new services have been connected to the distribution system. As part of the District’s ongoing commitment to improving the distribution system, two water mains have been replaced. On Carew Street, a 300 feet section of old 6"cast iron water main between Main Street and North Main Street was replaced with a new 8" ductile iron water main. Approximately 600 feet of 6" A.C. main on Park Avenue off Vivianni Street was replaced with 8" ductile iron water main. Three fire hydrants were replaced as well. The new mains will improve water quality, fire flows, and provide years of reliable service in both areas. The Water Department personnel installed both projects resulting in a considerable cost savings to the District. Water mains in the future will continue to be replaced by the Department’s staff when conditions and time are favorable. To assist in this effort, the Department is upgrading and purchasing equipment to provide reliability for future projects.

Back to top



Water Test Results

Before treatment - Your water is tested each step of the way – from the reservoir to the tap. We test the water as it leaves the reservoir to see how well our watershed protection is working. Test results show few contaminants are found in the reservoir water. Those few that are found are present in very small amounts, well below EPA’s standards. Turbidity (or cloudiness of water) is one measure of overall water quality. Typical levels are 0.3 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Units). Quabbin’s turbidity level was always below EPA’s standard of 5.0 NTU. It was below the Massachusetts standard of 1.0 NTU every day except for one, when the value reached 1.96 NTU, but this did not interfere with effective disinfection. Therfore, this was not a violation of the standard.

MWRA also tested Quabbin Reservoir water for pathogens (often called “germs”), such as fecal coliform, bacteria, and the parasites Cryptosporidium and Giardia. They can enter the water from animal or human waste. All test results were well within state and federal standards. No Cryptosporidium or Giardia was found in samples taken every other week.

After treatment - EPA and State regulations also require many water quality tests after treatment to check the water you are drinking. MWRA follows – and even goes beyond – these tests. We conduct thousands of tests per year. This allows us to better monitor your water

Back to top

Quabbin Reservoir Water Test Results – After Treatment

  • What does this table tell me? EPA requires that we test for over 120 contaminants. MWRA found only those noted in this report.

  • What is the bottom line? The water quality is excellent. All of the levels are well below EPA's allowable limits.
(MCL) - Highest Level Allowed
(We Found)
Detected Level
Range of Detections
Ideal Goal

Is the level in violation?

How It Gets in the Water
Common mineral in water
Additive for dental health
Natural deposits, stormwater/ fertilizer runoff
Natural deposits, stormwater/ fertilizer runoff

MCL = Maximum Contaminant Level - the highest threshold of contaminant allowed in water. MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as feasible using the best available technology.
MCLG = Maximum Contaminant Level Goal - The level of contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety.
PPM = parts per million (about one drop in one 55-gallon barrel of water).
ppb = parts per billion (about one drop in 1,000 barrels of water).
pCi/L = picoCuries per liter. *(EPA considers 50 pCi/l to be the level of concern for beta particles.
Avg. = average

Back to top


Results for Treated Water
MWRA and local water departments work together to test water all the way to the tap. We test samples of water in the city and town systems each week for total coliform bacteria. Total coliform bacteria can come from the intestines of warm-blooded animals, and they also can be found in soil, on plants, and other places. Most of the time, these bacteria are not harmful to humans. However, their presence could signal that harmful bacteria from fecal waste may be there as well. The EPA requires that no more than 5% of the samples in a given month may be positive for total coliform. If a water sample tests positive for total coliform, we run more specific tests for E.coli, which is a pathogen (germ) found in human and animal fecal waste that can cause illness.

How did we do in 2002?

Water treatment-from the reservoir to community pipes - Because of its excellent watershed conditions and protection, Quabbin Reservoir does not need a filtration step in its treatment. The state Department of Environmental Protection set special conditions in 1991 to maintain Quabbin’s high quality water.

But, even high quality water must be properly treated. MWRA's licensed treatment operators treat water at the reservoir before it enters the Chicopee Valley Aqueduct. The first treatment step is the primary disinfection where we carefully add measured doses of chlorine to water to kill pathogens that may be present. Licensed operators from CVA communities perform additional booster disinfection at the point where the local pipes take water from the Aqueduct. This process, called residual disinfection, protects the water while in the local pipes. Each community also treats the water to reduce leaching of lead from home plumbing.

Chicopee Water Department - The treatment plant adds sodium bicarbonate (similar to baking soda) and three other compounds to adjust the water chemistry. This treatment has eliminated “red” water problems at the tap caused by iron from the water mains, green stains on home plumbing fixtures caused by copper, and the absorption of lead from home plumbing. The lead and copper data on the next page shows that this treatment has been very successful. As a result, Chicopee has been granted the option to reduce the frequency of sampling under the regulations from 30 sites once every six months to 30 sites once every three years.
Note: The City of Chicopee did not meet the minimum sampling requirements for Total Coliform bacteria for the month of December 2002. Instead of the required 60 samples, only 59 samples were collected. This omission resulted in a Notice of Noncompliance. All 59 samples collected and tested were negative for bacteria. This oversight did not affect water quality or at any time pose a health risk to our customers.

Wilbraham - The Water Department’s Corrosion Control Program (CCP) continues to operate extremely well. Our CCP is based on the flow-paced injection of sodium silicate into Quabbin water. Lead and copper sampling is the method DEP uses to determine the effectiveness of our CCP. Since the CCP’s inception in 1997, we have had five consecutive rounds of lead and copper sampling over a four year period with excellent results. The DEP currently requires Wilbraham to sample for lead and copper only once every three years, due to our effective CCP. Wilbraham Water Department shared first place with the City of Boston in the MA DEP Public Water Supply (PWS) Awards Program for 2002. Our award category is for consecutive water systems, which is defined as systems that purchase their water from another source. This is the second year in a row that Wilbraham was ranked by DEP as the number one PWS in the MWRA system. For the last eight consecutive years, Wilbraham has placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the Awards Program out of 54 PWS in our category.

South Hadley Fire District #1 - The Departments’ continued use of Sodium Silicate for Corrosion Control is still successful in complying with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) lead and copper rule. Dependent upon the success of the annual sampling round in 2003, the Department will be allowed to sample the required fifteen sites every three years.

Back to top


Good news about lead in tap water

All three CVA communities met the EPA standards for lead in tap water. MWRA water is lead-free when it leaves the reservoirs. MWRA and local pipes that carry the water to your community are made mostly of iron and steel, and do not add lead to water. However, lead can get into tap water through pipes in the home, lead solder used in plumbing, and some brass fixtures. Corrosion or wearing away of lead-based materials can add lead to tap water, especially if water sits for a long time in the pipes before use.

What are we doing about lead? - Your local water department tests tap water at a number of homes in the communities. But not just any homes. Under Environmental Protection Agency regulations, homes that are likely to have high lead levels - usually older homes likely to have lead service lines or lead solder-must be tested. The EPA rule requires that 9 out of 10, or 90%, of these sampled homes must have lead levels below the Action Level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

Important Lead Information from EPA

Infants and young children are typically more vulnerable to lead in drinking water than the general population. It is possible that lead levels at your home may be higher than those at other homes in the community as a result of materials used in your home's plumbing. If you are concerned about elevated lead levels in your home's water, you may wish to have your water tested and flush your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using tap water. Additional information is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline: (800) 426-4791.

Back to top

Your Community Test Results: Lead, Copper and Disinfection By-products

Lead, Copper and Disinfection By-products Results
for 2002

  • What does this table tell me?This table lists results for lead, copper, and disinfection by-products including trihalomethanes and haloacetetic acids.

    What is the bottom line? All results for lead, copper, and disinfection
    by-products were IN COMPLIANCE with drinking water regulations.
Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)
MCL = 80 ppb
MCLG = 0
Haloacetic Acits
MCL = 60 ppb
MCLG = 0
Action Level 01 15 ppb
MCLG = 0
Action Level of 1.3 ppm
MCLG = 1.3 ppm
Your city or town
7-40 0 of 30 2 0 of 30 0.13
South Hadley FD #1
5-24 1 of 15 10 1 of 5 0.046
39 9-63 16 0-29 0 of 15 10.7 0 of 15 0.055
Westover Air Force Base (1)
NR 0 of 6 12.6 0 of 6 0.220
MCL = Maximum Contaminant Level - The highest level of a contaminant allowed in water. MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology. MCLG = Maximum Contaminant Level Goal - The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety. AL = Action Level - The concentration of a contaminant which, if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements which a water system must follow. (1) Westover Air Force Base receives wholesale water from Chicopee. Consumers in these systems should see Westover insert page for water quality analysis. ppm = parts per million- about one drop in one fifty-five gallon barrel of water ppb = parts per billion- about one drop in 1000 barrels of water NR = Testing not required Avg = average

Back to top


Important information from EPA and DEP about...

Contaminants in Bottled Water and Tap Water - Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contamination. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791).

In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, Massachusetts DEP and EPA prescribe regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water that must provide the same protection for public health.

Back to top

Drinking Water and People with Weakened Immune Systems -
Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than is the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorder, some elderly, and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. EPA/CDC guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791).

Back to top

Where to Go for Further Information

Health Issues
Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH)
Tel.:   (617) 624-6000
US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
Tel.:  (800) 311-3435
List of State Certified Water Quality Testing Labs
Tel.:  (617) 242-5323
Water System and Regulations
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA)
Tel.:  (617) 242-5323
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection www.mass.gov/dep
Tel.:  (617) 292-5500
Metropolitan District Commission www.mass.gov/mdc/water.htm
Tel.:   (617) 242-5323
Source Water Assessment and Protection Report www.mwra.com/sourcewater.htm
Tel.:  (617) 242-5323
Community Water Systems
Chicopee Water Department
Tel.:  413-594-3420
South Hadley Fire District #1
Tel.:  413-532-0666
Tel.:  413-596-2807
Click here for MWRA's monthly water quality report.

Back to top


Additional Versions of this Report are Available

For the Metro Boston/MetroWest version of this report, click here.

For a large-type version of this report, please email your request to Joshua Das, Project Manager, Public Health: JoshuaDas@mwra.state.ma.us


Share Your Thoughts
Your comments on last year's report helped us to improve it. To reduce costs, we've shortened the report this year, with each copy costing only 25 cents to print and mail. Give us a call, send us a letter or email, and let us know what you think.

Massachusetts Water Resources Authority
100 First Avenue
Boston, MA 02129
attn: Joshua Das, Project Manager - Public Health

email: JoshuaDas@mwra.state.ma.us
MWRA Water Quality Hotline: (617) 242-5323

Back to top