A standing-room-only crowd packed the Lynnfield Center Water District's (LCWD) hearing room Monday demanding clean water.
"I can't drink the water, I can't do the laundry," said Lisa Lopez, who bought a six-bedroom Cape style home with her husband on West Tapley Road five years ago. "No effort has been made to look at my home. I've yet to hear what you plan to do about it."
The two dozen residents said they want answers to why the water in their homes is brown, and sometimes black, making it undrinkable, and ruining clothes in the washer. They asked what will be done and if there's a plan to remedy the problem.
"My water stinks of chlorine and I won't drink this terrible brown water that stains my clothes in the washer," said Stephanie Rauseo of Russet Lane, who brought photos of the discolored water for the three-member Board of Water Commissioners.
In the tiny room where the temperature reached over 80 degrees despite a window air conditioner, residents of Apple Hill Lane, Lowell and Main streets, and Cortland Lane, said they have been living with discolored water for years.
Established by the Legislature in 1939, LCWD is one of two water districts that serves Lynnfield. It produces and distributes water to more than 2,600 homes, businesses, and public buildings in the northwest two-thirds of the town. But neighbors say the panel has ignored their complaints.
Constance Leccese, the chairwoman, assured the crowd something was being done. She said in the short term, LCWD will pay up to $200 for the purchase and installation of a water filter that, she said, should alleviate the problem temporarily.
The long range plan, she said, is construction of a water treatment plant at a cost of up to $5 million that would have to be approved by a majority of voters.
"We acknowledge this is a problem," Leccese said. "That's the reason we are putting this rebate system in place now."
But many people in the crowd said a filter would need to be replaced once a week given the discolored water.
"I can tell you a filter won't last more than a week given the conditions in our homes," said one man. "Who will pay to replace them every week?"
Another resident suggested ratepayers not be charged for water or be given a substantial discount until the problem is solved. But that idea was rejected by Leccese.
Kenneth Burnham, water superintendent, said the reason for the discolored water is deposits of iron and magnesium. He insisted the water was "safe," noting that tests submitted to the state confirmed the town's water meets all the criteria of the federal Safe Water Act. He said the best remedy is a new treatment plant which could take years to win voter approval and complete construction.
The other option is tying into the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, which provides water and sewer services to 3.1 million people and more than 5,500 industrial users in 61 Greater Boston communities.
But the cost would be about $20 million, a tough financial pill for the community to swallow.
"We work for you and want to solve this," Burnham said.
But many of the residents were dissatisfied with the answers.
"Is there a Plan B if the $4 million is not approved by residents?" asked one woman in the crowd.
Burnham said there is no alternate plan.
For now, he said, they plan a high velocity flush of the system, which should alleviate the problem. But he acknowledged the water pressure has not been sufficient enough to get the job done since many residents are violating the no outside water-use policy.
"We are collecting about $800 in fines weekly," he said.
But that response brought groans from the crowd.
"Are you serious," said one man. "How do you sleep at night?" asked another.