Wicked Local Winchester: “Mixed Reviews” For Decision To Open North Reservoir Path

On Saturday, Danielle McClean over at Wicked Local Winchester reported that there have been “mixed reviews” of the decision by the city of Winchester to open the North Reservoir path in the Fells to hikers and dogs.  McClean writes:

[Jim] Gibbons, the town’s acting water and sewer operations manager,] said the decision to open the North Reservoir path was not backed by the town’s Water Department. He and his colleagues feared opening it up would risk contaminating the water with diseases such as cryptosporidium and coliform bacteria. He said the reservoirs have historically produced clean water. “You don’t want to make it worse and by putting people or dogs in the water you are taking a step toward it,” he said.

Gibbons is concerned about the effect of dogs jumping in the reservoir.

For the opposing view, McClean cites John Shawcross, “a retired water engineer and member of the committee tasked with studying the effects of increased access to the Fells reservoirs.”  Here’s what Shawcross had to say about any risk to the water supply:

Shawcross said it would be safe to open up the Middle Reservoir, but the town pulls water directly from the South Reservoir, which is why that one should remain closed. Water from the North Reservoir travels to the Middle Reservoir before spilling into the South Reservoir; it takes at least a year for water to travel to the water treatment plant from those areas, allowing the water to be subject to a natural cleaning process.

So when she points to “mixed reviews”, what McClean is really talking about are differing opinions among experts about what the potential health effects of the decision will be.  McClean talked to one person walking with her kid and her dogs on the North Reservoir path, but we really don’t see the public’s view of the decision reported here.

Given the differing opinions from the water experts, what do you think about the decision to open the North Reservoir path?  Is the added access to a previously restricted area of the Fells worth the risk?  Have you made use of the North Reservoir path since it opened?  Have you seen anyone engaging in activities that could contaminate the water?  Use the comments section below to leave your thoughts so we can really get a sense of what the reviews are for the current state of the North Reservoir path.

[Top Photo: Wicked Local Staff Photo/Ann Ringwood, Buy Photo]

This post was originally created by our friends at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

In anticipation of warmer weather ahead, MWRA would like to remind residents and their canine companions that swimming is not allowed at the High Fells Reservoir in Stoneham.

MWRA’s primary concern is public safety. The Fells has many rock outcroppings and swimmers who are tired or hit their heads while diving are a long way from emergency medical help. The facility is not staffed and there are no lifeguards on duty. There have been fatalities at this site in the past and more recently at nearby Spot Pond.

Protection of the public water supply is also critical. The covered storage tank was constructed as part of MWRA’s $1.7 billion program to modernize the water system, and was put into service in 1998. This facility provides the drinking water for Melrose, Saugus, Stoneham and Wakefield. However, the open reservoir, constructed in 1899, still serves as an important component of the MWRA’s emergency water supply system. In an emergency situation, the reservoir could be put into service as a drinking water supply in a very short time. Swimmers and dogs in the water pose a real threat to water quality.

The MWRA recognizes that the Fells is a valued recreational resource in the area and has worked closely with local communities over the years to maintain a balanced use of this beautiful site that allows accessibility while protecting the public water supply. Illegal swimming has resulted in vandalism, damage to fencing, trash left at the reservoir and fires. The MWRA has asked the Massachusetts State Police to increase their patrols of this critical facility during the summer. The MWRA also needs the help of local residents to ensure public safety and protect public health.

Please call the MWRA’s 24-hour Security Hotline at (877) 697-6972 to report swimming or any other harmful behavior.

The Friends of the Fells and MWRA ask you to be smart and stay safe!