Onset residents complain about lack of communication with Onset Water Dept.

May 23, 2019

After resolving the contaminated water crisis, the Onset Water Commissioners met on Wednesday to present the emergency report, listen to residents’ concerns and reflect on improvements that can be done in case of another emergency.

“There was no E. coli in the water system. It was a single residence in that situation,” said Onset Water Superintendent Kevin Sampson. “It turned out the household filter hasn't been changed in a correct amount of time, so when we re-sampled the water, it came back E.coli negative, but because there was still total coliform in the system’s samples, that triggered the “boil water” order.”

The Onset villagers who attended the meeting were “very disappointed” about the lack of communication between the department and the residents during and after the water crisis, complaining about outdated website and difficulties to access meeting agenda.

“We, as citizens, are concerned about our health and we would like more information from you to keep us informed truthfully in a very timely manner about what’s happening,” said resident Linda Scharf. “The websites are confusing and have information from 2014-2015.”

Sampson noted that the Onset Water Department's emergency “boil water” notification did go up on the town of Wareham website, local television stations and local newspapers. And while many residents learned about “boil water” order via the reverse 9-11 system, some did not receive these calls.

“When a state issues a boil water order, we have 24 hours to notify people, and we had from 75 to 85 percent of our are notified within three hours,” said Sampson. “We did the best we could.”

According to the emergency report to the state Department of Environmental Protection, one way to improve communication is to have more Onset residents have account with the Rave alert system, which conducts the reverse 9-11 calls.

“We have a very small staff when it comes to dealing with major incidents such as these,” said the report. “We are looking into upgrading a few things to make use a bit more prepared in the face of another emergency. Possible some equipment upgrades and some newer technology for starters.”