BURLINGTON – The Board of Selectmen adhered to a request from the Department of Public Works (DPW) to enact a full outdoor watering ban, effective this past Monday.
DPW Director John Sanchez was not in attendance at the selectmen’s first meeting since COVID-19, so he provided a hand-written statement to Town Administrator Paul Sagarino as to the reason for the full outdoor watering ban request.
Although Town Meeting previously approved the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) implementation process to supplement the town’s water supply, the environmental ratification process remains incomplete, meaning the town is not connected to a MWRA water supply and likely won’t be for at least two more years as the permitting process is painfully extensive for communities.
“Until that process is complete and supplemental water from the MWRA is available, the town will only provide water service from its existing supply,” Sagarino read.
The town’s two existing water treatment facilities, Vine Brook and Mill Pond, are not able to supply 100 percent of the town’s demand. With both facilities needing to be staffed 24 hours a day while the world combats COVID-19, the DPW is expecting difficulties when it comes to being able to fully staff facilities now and in the summer.
“Reductions in staff are already occurring and we cannot operate the facilities for the hours we need, so we will very likely not be able to supply our water demand during the warm weather months,” Sagarino stated. “The DPW anticipates only one facility will be needed during these months. A full outdoor watering ban restriction will allow staff to provide adequate water supply for all.”
The ban is primarily for watering irrigation systems, and includes commercial properties, as well as residential.
During a full outdoor watering ban, the town is able to get its potable water from an emergency water provision through the town of Lexington, so Burlington’s needs are supplemented. Lexington is an emergency water connection for Burlington through water flow from the MWRA, but they can only access the neighborly community lines once the town has officially declared a full outdoor watering restriction
The full outdoor water ban has always worked throughout the years, with demand dropping by the millions of gallons in the past several years since the town started enacting full outdoor watering bans when necessary.
With sprinkler systems cited as the primary problem for the water capacity issues in town, the statistics back that notion up as one out of seven homes in the community has a sprinkler system.
Sagarino informed the selectmen that he spoke with Sanchez about the hopeful scenario of not needing the watering ban if the COVID-19 difficulties eventually subside sooner than later.
“In the event we get through the COVID-19 crisis and go back to our typical summer odd/even watering restrictions, we can revisit the current ban,” confirmed Sagarino. “But at this point and time, and given the chance that personnel could become ill, we felt this is the best course of action so we can continue to provide water to the town.”
Selectman James Tigges’ comment exemplified the common sentiment among the board.
“It is unfortunate we even have to think about this, but it is a bi-product of today’s times,” lamented Selectman Tigges.
The selectmen unanimously supported the full outdoor watering ban until further notice.
Outdoor watering restrictions consist of:
- Irrigation of lawns via sprinklers or automatic irrigation systems.
- Washing of exterior building surfaces, parking lots, driveways or sidewalks, except as necessary to apply surface treatments such as paint, preservatives, stucco, pavement or cement.
The following uses may be allowed during the watering ban:
- Irrigation to establish a new lawn and new plantings during the months of September and October (by written authorization by the DPW). No irrigation is allowed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
- Irrigation of gardens, flowers, and ornamental plants by means of a hand-held hose only.
- To meet core functions of a business or commercial activity.
According to the Town Bylaws Section 5.4 the Town, through its Board of Selectmen, may declare a State of Water Conservation. Section 5.9 states the Penalties for violating the Water Restriction are:
- Any person violating shall be issued a warning for the first violation and shall be liable to the town in the amount of $50 for the second violation, and $100 for each subsequent violation thereafter. These fines are non-criminal disposition. The DPW will first attempt to contact an offender by phone call, which would be followed by the aforementioned written violation warning and fines.