OLD LYME — Since the end of June, the Lymes’ Senior Center has been providing bottled water, using paper plates and distributing hand sanitizer to its visitors and employees after the center’s 450-foot-deep well drilled-well, which replaced a shallow dug well in 2014, tested positive for coliform bacteria.
The previous well tested positive for both coliform and E. coli bacteria in August 2013.
“We’ve been working with the state of Connecticut to rectify the problem,” said Stephanie Gould, director of the Lymes’ Senior Center. “In the meantime we still use the toilets, but we’ve taped everything else off. We are using bottled water and have posted hand sanitizer in the bathrooms.”
The well water first tested positive for coliform on June 25, but after identifying and replacing a defective cap, and despite four chlorination attempts, water tests are still returning positive results for the bacteria.
“In talking to the Health District, they said it happens, it’s far less frequent than a shallow well, in deep wells you don’t expect it, but it can happen. It could be coming from miles down the road because of the water veins,” said Bonnie Reemsnyder, first selectman of Old Lyme. “But then we had a comment from the company that has done our water tests in the past and they said they have seen more hits of coliform than in the past, they think it’s the runoff… because of the amount of rain that we’ve had.”
An email from LaFramboise Water Services President James Majewski to Reemsnyder, the Department of Public Health and Ledge Light Health District, identified a potentially faulty well design as at least a contributing factor to the bacterial contamination.
“Experience has shown that when bacteria is detected in a well with similar installation, it is difficult to remove the coliform with a standard chlorination as the chlorine needs to be introduced into the whole column. If this is not accomplished then water containing coliform at lower depths may be reintroduced. This may account for the sporadic negatives and positives we are seeing,” wrote Majewski.
To counter the fact that the water may never be able to consistently test negative, the state Department of Public Health recommended that Old Lyme install a UV light filter that will cost the town up to $3,500.
“The decision to use a UV system was actually made a few weeks ago in a meeting with state officials, and the specifics of the system approved by the State DPH. Installation will be done this week,” Reemsnyder said.
Once the filter is installed the town will continue with testing before allowing the water to be used for drinking and washing.
Gould said she is thankful that at least this time around the entire facility did not need to be shut down. In 2013 and 2014 the senior center was shuttered while a new well was drilled.
In October of 2018, the town was issued a notice of violation for not submitting a quarterly water test for the senior center well. Both the Town of Old Lyme and the state Department of Public Health were unavailable to comment on whether the violation was ever resolved.
In addition to the senior center well, a nearby 250-foot drilled well serving the Town Woods Park restrooms and concession stand tested positive for both coliform and E. coli bacteria on June 27 of this year, and also continued to test positive throughout the summer resulting in the closure of the bathroom and concessions stand.
“The issues with the Town Woods Park are being discussed and it is likely that a new well will be drilled,” Reemsnyder said. “Again, we are working closely with the State DPH on an approved plan to address the problem.”