Post Content

Bigby_JudyAnn_2Posted by:
JudyAnn Bigby, MD, Secretary of Health and Human Services

 

This week’s water main break and response underscored a fundamental, universal point: we’re very lucky that in this country most residents have access to basic necessities – clean air, sufficient food supply, clean drinking water and shelter.  Many of us are so accustomed to having these things readily available that we rarely think twice about filling a glass of water from the sink or reaching into the refrigerator for a snack.  As a result of the water main break in Weston, nearly two million people who live and work in communities east of Weston were reminded how reliant we are on these fundamentals that have taken them for granted.  

Immediately following the breach, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) supplied residents in the affected areas with water from an emergency backup system that draws water from the Sudbury and Chestnut Hill Reservoirs.  However, the fear that this water supply contained bacteria and other parasites that would make people sick if consumed led to a ‘boil water order.’  While the likelihood of getting sick from consuming this untreated water was low, the order was put into effect as a precautionary measure to protect the health of the affected communities.  During the ‘boil water order,’ residents were advised to avoid drinking or cooking with tap water unless it had been boiled for at least one minute to remove any potential illness-causing agents or use bottled water. Such precautionary measures frustrated residents, as routine activities like hand washing or brewing a pot of coffee became much more difficult. News reports featured residents who were disappointed that they couldn’t easily pick up a hot drink at the local coffee chain, or frustrated they had to wait hours for water at one of the National Guard’s distribution sites.

While the need to boil tap water before use inconvenienced some, we still had access to water.  If boiling water was too much of an inconvenience, we sill had the option of buying bottled water or other drinks. It may have taken longer to make coffee at home or have an iced drink, but this, in the grand scheme of things, was a minor hindrance. We could still bathe, clean, cook, and prepare drinks in a reasonably convenient way.

 

The water main break in Weston also demonstrates the responsibility of government to ensure some basic necessities for the Commonwealth’s citizens. The role of state and local public health authorities to protect the health of all Massachusetts residents was illustrated, and underscores the importance of “public health” for all.

Written By:


Communications Office

Recent Posts

Exposure to Radon Increases Your Risk for Lung Cancer posted on Jul 13

Exposure to Radon Increases Your Risk for Lung Cancer

Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas. Radon is created when naturally occurring elements such as uranium and radium in rocks and soil break down during a process called radioactive decay. Once radon is emitted, it migrates upwards to the ground surface through   …Continue Reading Exposure to Radon Increases Your Risk for Lung Cancer

Highlights of the July 12th Public Health Council Meeting posted on Jul 12

This month’s meeting of the PHC featured an implementation update related to a current Determination of Need project, a vote on final regulations, and an informational presentation from DPH staff for Council members. First, the Council received an implementation update from Boston Children’s Hospital on   …Continue Reading Highlights of the July 12th Public Health Council Meeting

Keeping Cool and Staying Healthy During Extreme Heat posted on Jul 12

Keeping Cool and Staying Healthy During Extreme Heat

Temperatures this week in Massachusetts have been relatively normal for this time of year. Even so, we know that most summers in New England will bring about at least some extremely hot days. In fact, extreme heat events are one of the most common causes   …Continue Reading Keeping Cool and Staying Healthy During Extreme Heat