Landscaper taps hydrant for seeding, may face fines

Photo: nrcs.usda.govPhoto:

A landscaping company is facing potential fines by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) for connecting to the East Longmeadow drinking-water supply without the town’s authorization.

The out-of-town contractor is being investigated because it connected one of its hydroseeding trucks to a fire hydrant. Town officials say the connection could have caused East Longmeadow’s water supply to become contaminated.

Neither state nor local officials would identify the landscaping company involved.

“This created the potential for contamination of our water supply since no backflow preventer was installed and their hose was connected to their hydroseeding tank,” said Robert Peirent, director of the town’s Department of Public Works (DPW).

“Fortunately,” Peirent told Reminder Publications, “the connection was detected and eliminated by our staff before any problems developed.”

As a safety precaution, the DPW flushed the entire section of the water system. Because the connection was made at the end of a dead-end street and was a high-pressure connection, both state and town officials acknowledged it was unlikely water moved in the wrong direction – the potential cause of contamination.

The MassDEP was contacted as soon as local authorities became aware of the unauthorized connection.

The landscaping firm should have obtained permission from the town before using the hydrant. Permission to tap the hydrant, which was in a residential area, would have included the requirement that a backflow preventer be installed to stop chemicals and grass seed from entering the drinking-water supply. In addition, the flow would have been measured and the company would have been charged for the water it used.

“What if there was a fire and the fire department hooked up to another hydrant in a (nearby) neighborhood?” asked Mark Langone, a licensed backflow inspector in East Longmeadow. “That would create a vacuum and that would suck in his whole tank of whatever it was … into our drinking water. And that’s where it gets serious.”

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