Aquapocalypse: Greater Boston residents told to boil water as six-year-old aqueduct fails

FAIL: Aqueduct breaks after just 6 years.FAIL: Aqueduct breaks after just 6 years.UPDATE: 10 p.m.: The state says workers have stopped the leak in Weston but that it could be "days at a minimum, we're hoping not weeks" before the boil-water order is lifted. ... If you have water-related questions, you can call 211. ... The state has posted an FAQ, including answers to questions about such things as giving babies baths and whether dishwashers and automatic coffee machines are safe. ... Map of Boston neighborhoods (yes, Allston and Brighton are part of Boston).

Boil that water until further notice, the MWRA warns:

A BOIL WATER ORDER IS BEING ISSUED FOR DRINKING WATER FOR ALL MWRA COMMUNITIES EAST OF WESTON UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. ... MWRA is activating its emergency water supplies such as the Sudbury Aqueduct, Chestnut Hill Reservoir and Spot Pond Reservoir. THIS WATER WILL NOT BE SUITABLE FOR DRINKING, but can be used for bathing, flushing and fire protection.

According to the state Department of Environmental Water, this means bringing "the water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute." If you go out to eat, do NOT drink fountain soda - unless you're going into Cambridge, which has its own water supply separate from the MWRA.

The MWRA adds:

The leak is located at the location where the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel meets the City Tunnel on Recreation Road. This 120-inch diameter pipe transports water to our communities east of Weston – as far north as Wilmington and south to Stoughton. Water is leaking into the Charles River at rate of over 8 million gallons an hour. MWRA crews are on site; engineers are assessing the situation to determine next steps.

The Boston Police Department held over officers from the day shift so they can begin driving around the city notifying residents of the emergency order over loudspeakers.

List of affected communities:

Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Canton, Chelsea, Dedham, Everett, Lexington, Lynnfield Water District, Malden, Marblehead, Marlborough, Medford, Melrose, Milton, Nahant, Newton, Norwood, Peabody, Quincy, Reading, Revere, Saugus, Somerville, Stoneham, Stoughton, Swampscott, Wakefield, Waltham, Watertown, Weston, Westwood, Wilmington, Winchester, Winthrop, Woburn.



    Free tagging: 


    Supermarkets outside of Concord....

    Should check IDs to make sure no Concord residents snatch up all the bottled water from stores....

    Wasn't I just talking about something along these lines?

    Beat me to it

    By on

    I'm just wondering if I should be headed out to by some bottled water. Also worried that the resturant we're headed to this evening will be closed.

    Glad I took my shower before I read about this!

    boil water order is now in

    boil water order is now in effect. I'm running a marathon tomorrow morning and I'm supposed to be hydrating, so this is a little annoying...


    By on

    One thing to take away from this:

    Adam is ALL OVER this news story. I learned about it quickly because of him and his Twitter post.

    The major websites (,, etc) haven't mentioned it yet at all. Only like 1 tv station is just NOW starting to talk about it.

    Wow. Speed of news...speed of the internet.

    I had the same thought ...

    ... After looking at's mobile site ( on my iPod touch 7 pm and seeing nothing. UniversalHub had two or three items.

    Great job, Adam.

    I get my late breaking news from Adamg & Universal Hub

    I'm not sure if it says more about my media habits or more about Adamg & Universal Hub. I'm guessing the later. Thanks for the heads up. I tuned in to Universal Hub at about 4 pm.

    By 10:15 pm, the reader boards over the Central Artery were announcing the boil water order.

    However, at 11:15 pm, the Boston Globe web site ( was behaving as though the most important water stories were some ridiculous story about plaster bottles in Concord and a silt pollution problem in South Carolina.

    Boston dot com seems to be all over the story now, but that is not the only domain name those guys are managing.


    When I have an inkling that something's going on around here, UHub is my no-blink number-one go-to source. Then Twitter.'s somewhere around #12, somewhere below BoingBoing ("Boil your water with this steampunk gadget!")

    Historic steps

    Ah, back to the Middle Ages and even our Colonial times. Ale is the answer when the water is bad.

    Bonus fun fact about the aqueduct that broke

    By on

    It was built about 10 years ago so that greater Boston would be assured of water if one of the two other existing aqueducts broke.

    Bonus fun fact about the Sudbury Reservoirs: They haven't been used in decades in part because the sediment at the bottom is contaminated with mercury from a tanning plant in Ashland.

    Wow really? Boiling does not

    Wow really? Boiling does not eliminate heavy metals. Sounds like one should boil + Brita. Or just go raid the store for bottled water like I just did.

    I wouldn't worry about the sediment

    By on

    Mercury is, well, heavy, so it's unlikely to get into the water unless they really, really draw down the reservoirs (they're the ones you can see along Rte. 9 in Framingham and Southborough).

    Charcoal filter

    By on

    Charcoal filters don't eliminate metals from drinking water, either.

    Found out about the situation...

    By on

    ...On the 24/27 bus. It stopped at the River Street/Cummins Highway stop, and a Boston cop got on and gave the passengers the news.

    WBZ, when I got home, was nattering on about pets being better listeners than spouses and sports scores.

    JUST now, they mentioned the leak, BUT NOT the boil water alert.

    Thanks, Universal Hub for the heads up!

    Big Brother

    We just got a roving car with a loudspeaker through our neighborhood with the boil-water order. I confess it's more pleasant to me than the ice-cream truck music.

    sort of

    By on

    The roving loudspeaker for me consisted of a click on, BOIL YA WATTA, click off and nothing else. And judging by the reactions of everyone else in the house, not many people heard clearly enough even knowing what they were supposed to be saying.

    What a waste of energy

    By on

    It doesn't cost all that much to set up a robocall system, and it doesn't waste gas. It'll inform more people more quickly. It's pretty easy to set up. Some towns already have them and used them this time.

    Telephone service providers should be required to have robocall systems that can reach all of their subscribers and that can be quickly activated by any of a number of designated public officials.

    It would cost them pennies, adding maybe 2¢ a month to our bills.

    Cops in Brighton

    By on

    Cop cars in Brighton are making announcements as they drive the major roads. Passed one on Market St as I was returning with bottled water from the Allston Shaw's (still plenty left when I left and Poland Spring gallons were even the same price as Shaw's bottled water right now on sale).

    Are restaurants being forced

    By on

    Are restaurants being forced to close?

    I highly doubt any restaurant will boil water and then use the boiled water to clean the vegetables and such.

    Also remember folks, most soda fountains do NOT have a water filter. I know, its hard to believe, you buy bottled water because tap water is supposedly dirty but then gorge on soda that is made from tap water and is not filtered. It's funny how some people think.

    Actually most soda fountains

    By on

    Actually most soda fountains are equipped with filtration systems built into the carbonation / syrup / pressure system. But you're right, not all of them are; but I'd say most probably are.

    We're both throwing around

    By on

    We're both throwing around "most" irresponsibly since neither of us know what % of fountains are filtered.

    So let me rephrase: Some soda fountains do not have filters, and there's no way you as a customer can tell. Also, at many restaurants, the waiter won't know either because he/she does not clean the machine or change the syrups or gas.

    May not filter for the right thing

    By on

    I work with coffee brewers, not soda fountains. But many of the filters you find in restaurant settings are designed to filter particles, and filter for taste and odor. They are rarely rated for filtering out bacterial agents. In other words, don't drink the soda or the coffee. Tea could be fine, if they are actually boiling the water. But I wouldn't count on it.

    Beer should still be good.

    Or will restaurants be

    By on

    Or will restaurants be charging for said bottled water? Isn't there some sort of state reg that says tap water must be provided free of charge at all establishments? What is the deal in such situations?

    Ginza (Brookline)

    By on

    We ate at Ginza this evening. They had the boil-water order posted on the door, and they were very clear that they were serving bottled water, not tap. Of course, we were eating raw fish, so make of that what you will... (Hey, I didn't have to boil anything to eat it, so I was happy!)

    Yay alternate sources to get the news out!

    By on

    I found out about this because, a couple years ago, Melrose bought a robo-call system for the city's emergency management department. We got a phone call from the mayor giving us the info. See, THAT'S what robo-calling is good for.

    I also admit that one of the first things I did was check to see if Concord was affected by this. Annoyingly, they're RIGHT outside the affected area. Lexington is hit by it; Concord is not. I was looking forward to the schadenfreude.

    Somerville also robo-called

    Not the voice of Tom Champion anymore, but Jackie Rossetti can fill his role just fine in emergencies like this one.

    downtown Boston

    By on

    I had three! robo-calls by dinner time, two from Mumbles' office and one from our local rep.

    in Medford, we had nothing

    By on

    No calls, no drive-bys, no notification. If not for on-the-ball friends and electronic media, I would have had no idea. I went out and flyered the trees on my street, and talked to a few people, but I wasn't going to pay enough to do the whole town. I hope nobody suffers serious illness because the city was so freaking useless and they drank the water.

    Chestnut Hill Reservoir not at full capacity

    By on

    The Chestnut Hill Reservoir was definitely not at full capacity prior to this event, but it is now going to be called upon as a backup water supply.

    It's level this spring was a good 6-8 feet below the typical level, according to my memory. All spring you could see much more of the rock lining way down into the reservoir.

    The MWRA site has these towns listed on their website:

    updated at 6pm.

    Arlington Belmont
    Lynnfield Water District

    cambridge not east of weston?

    By on

    The Cambridge city website boldly claims that the People's Republic is not affected by the water main break but does not elaborate. Does Cambridge water come from someplace else? Where?

    It does

    By on

    From the Hobbs Brook and Stony Brook Reservoirs. Other towns east of Weston have their own supply as well.

    Sounds fun

    By on

    Will they be giving out free samples at the end?

    Enjoy before, during, and after

    Don't be alarmed when they skim the scum off the pools. :)

    I didn't look to see if the info article noted the parking issue over at Fresh Pond. If you don't have a Cambridge parking permit, you should be able to get a temporary one for the tour by the tour leader. That's what happened last year, anyway.


    By on

    Isn't this west of Weston??


    By on

    Anyone have any idea what time this happened? I've been drinking tap most of the day and I'm wondering if I should start popping antibiotics...

    By on had the story before UniversalSchlub did. It isn't like people on the Net are psychic, just more twticthy. My mum called me about this before 3, and she doesn't use the nerdnet.

    Doo dee the king of slumerville can prepare his forces!

    Three cheers for UHub

    I learned about it first here, started posting on Facebook and sending to friends.

    This does sound like it's going to be one giant pain in the butt for residents and businesses alike.

    What happened to redundancy?

    Didn't MWRA build this brand-new aqueduct so that it would be redundant with the old Hultman pipe? Why can't they just switch back to using the Hultman?

    Just a guess

    By on

    I'm betting the Hultman and the new MetroWest aqueduct both feed into the City Tunnel. If that's the case, and the break happened right where the MetroWest feeds into that tunnel, then maybe turning on the Hultman would only make things worse, as its water gets sucked into the maelstrom (God love the Vikings).

    Not until 2014

    By on

    The Globe is no reporting that this pipeline was built to be the primary and MWRA has been in the process of retrofitting the Hultman to be the redundancy for just this sort of situation. Unfortunately, that work is scheduled to be completed in 2014.


    By on

    Why doesn't it seem to say what to do/look for if you drank a bunch of water before seeing the warning?

    Raging shits

    If you are suddenly horribly ill, with the raging shits, this might be why. But if you're already suddenly horribly ill, then you already know you have a problem.

    Really, this is no big deal.

    And FWIW it's easier to put a few drops of bleach in your water than to boil it and cool it back off again.

    now what?

    By on

    So for those of us that didn't notice the warning until too late- any signs/symptoms we should be looking for? Doesn't seem to say on the mwra website.

    Most obvious

    By on

    The most obvious problem with drinking untreated water would be a gastrointestinal bacterial infection. Diarrhea, upset stomach, fever...the same sorts of signs as food poisoning because it's essentially the same problem.

    I wouldn't freak out

    By on

    Make a best effort, y'know?

    Some folks have weaker immune systems, the water is probably mostly's just precautionary.


    By on

    ...being part of Boston and all. Do A/B residents not know they live in Boston?

    I'm sure some don't. I met

    I'm sure some don't. I met someone in Jamaica Plain who insisted it wasn't part of Boston. Ignorance is widespread in this oddly shaped city.

    Having just moved to Brighton

    By on

    Having just moved to Brighton from out of state I thought that was a valid question.

    This means WAR

    Cambridge water is OK, anyone else think it's about time the City of Boston invaded Cambridge?

    Perhaps a dumb question but...

    How does this happen? Is it a wear-and-tear thing, a product defect, a giant Mass. clusterf*ck?

    Not being facetious here (okay, maybe the clusterf*ck suggestion...), just wondering...

    That's the $64-million question

    By on

    These things are supposed to last for decades. Maybe they used the same concrete company as the T did for those Old Colony ties?

    From the globe: Because of

    From the globe:

    Because of turbidity it is impossible to see down to the leak and contractors and engineers have to wait until the tunnel drains – hopefully by tomorrow – until they can figure out what went wrong, Laskey said.

    So that means they likely won't even start fixing it until sometime tomorrow, I think. This feeling is also somewhat confirmed by the fact that Governor Patrick is asking bottled water companies to make extra water available to the state. If this was going to be fixed when we woke up tomorrow, that wouldn't be necessary.

    My guess.

    If they know what the problem is, they know how to fix it. They usually have outside contractors start emergency work as soon as possible, and my guess would be right now. Id say everything will be fine by at the earliest tomorow night, and the latest 72 hours. My guess is Monday morning the pipe will be repaired.

    Not what the exec director says

    By on

    Check out the NECN video Adam just linked to. The director of the MWRA is talking days to possibly weeks. If the crack is bad enough that they can't patch it, then from what I've read they'll have to create a custom new pipe to replace the segment. 10-foot diameter pipes aren't the kind of thing you make in an hour...

    MRWA blames "Murphy's law"

    MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey, in an effort to save his job, repeatedly blamed "Murphy's law" for today's failure -- obviously out of his control.

    I wonder, is Murphy's salary commensurate with his responsibility for the integrity and safety of the aqueducts? Can we save a couple of hundred thousand bucks by canning his incompetent ass?

    Well, only if ...

    his salary reduction would be enough to make up for the amount that it costs to maintain infrastructure. If we underfund everything - and Massachusetts seems to underfund ALL infrastructure maintenance and repair - we get what we pay for. Taxachusetts is a myth - we simply underfund this stuff and now we got to boil it before we drink it!

    You mean like they

    You mean like they underfunded the Big Dig?

    This aqueduct is brand new - how much maintenance do you think it needs? And by the way - when you file your state taxes, you do check the box to pay the higher rate - right?

    I said that MAINTENENCE is underfunded

    And that is due to way too much money paying people who don't do anything and bloated pension funds.

    I about choked when I heard that certain agencies don't like to do maintenance because it comes out of their program budgets ... I mean WTF are they supposed to be doing with that money?

    Massachusetts also funds things year by year ... a recipe for disaster. Google "hood canal bridge" to find out why Washington joined the 20th century in that regard.

    I think what notwhitey is saying....

    Is that a waterpipe is not like an MBTA bus engine. Pipes are built to last 150 years and then you just replace them. They don't require maintenence like a bus engine would.

    come on

    By on

    why, when something like this happens, do people immediately start trumpeting "off their heads"? there are people who get into government work because they want to serve their fellow citizens (and yes - gasp - government employees are not all "hacks") and they are right now working 24/7 for you and everyone around you.

    what a world we would live in if every time something bad happened, anybody that had *anything* to do with it gets canned. one would presume that these instantaneous judges have had the good fortune to work at places which never ever make even the smallest mistakes or are the victim of another's negligence.

    let the man do his job before you begin the executions. please.

    what a world we would live in

    what a world we would live in if every time something bad happened, anybody that had *anything* to do with it gets canned

    You mean like the Dreaded Private Sector?

    ooh yeah all those people

    By on

    ooh yeah all those people still working at Goldman Sachs, etc etc. this is just one break which will be fixed soon. yeah, the private sector can be just brutal for performance pay.

    Silver Lining

    One neighbor just got home. Five neighbors instantly appeared to inform them of the disaster.

    My sons went door to door when we first heard, until the cops showed up and took over, making sure our neighbors were safe.

    People talking to each other, people looking out for each other. That part is nice.

    Oh come on, it's just

    By on

    Oh come on, it's just untreated water, not death itself coming up your pipes.

    I'm sure everyone here, at one point or another, has drank worse.

    The rocket scientists who

    The rocket scientists who work at McDonald's Faneuil Hall made signs that said they couldn't serve soda fountain beverages due to "oil leak on the water" ... and that they "opologize" (sic) for this. I tried to tell them that this has nothing to do with the oil in the Gulf and that it was a water main break, but they wouldn't hear it.

    Made me lol.


    By on

    Most of the people who work at McDonald's don't really speak English.

    These rocket scientists also didn't realize that the Gulf is salt water. You can't drink that. You could desalinate it, but it takes way too much energy to be cost effective.

    100% trivial side note: Mother Brook

    By on

    In case you were wondering - like we were - about the effect on the Mother Brook of all that water gushing into the Charles, the answer is: Not much. You do see a slight rise in the amount of water flowing into the Mother Brook, but absolutely nowhere near as much as what happened last weekend when they lowered the level of the Charles by three feet in Waltham to inspect the flashboards at the Moody Street dam.

    Ummm -

    By on

    It would be considerably odd if the leak increased the volume into Mother Brook, since the burst site is several miles downstream from it.

    Winchester water divided into zones

    I couldn't find this last night, but now says this:

    Due to a major water main break in the MWRA water system, the MWRA has issued a BOIL WATER ORDER for the part of the Town of Winchester supplied by the MWRA. This will affect all residents west of Cambridge Street, including Cambridge Street. Other areas of Town impacted include Pond Street, Chesterford Road, Chesterford Terrace, Ardley Road, Ardley Place, Parker Road and Norfolk Road. Also, Bellevue Avenue, Keenan Drive, Eugene Drive, and Forest Street, from Bellevue Avenue to the Stoneham Line.

    All other residents and businesses have water fed from the Town’s water treatment system, which is safe to consume.


    By on

    I guess i'll find a person over in Cambridge who will let me fill my jugs with their tap water until this is over with.. boiling the water is a pain in the butt.

    -somerville resident

    I've Missed Something

    By SP on

    I've missed something - why, if the pipe is gushing water *out* is there bad water in the pipe? How does bad water get into the pipe if the force of the water is blasting outwardly? Where/how is the untreated water entering the pipe?
    Somebody, please 'splain this to me.

    And yes, I always figured Cambridge was on a different system, its water is terrible to drink. Brookline/Quabbin water, I could guzzle from the tap all day.

    OK - Got It!

    By SP on

    Okay, now I understand. While the pipe is being repaired we are being served water from alternate, untreated reservoirs.

    boil water warning

    By on

    I've sat at lake beaches many times and watched little children take the water into their mouths and either swallow it or spout it out like a fountain as their parents sat close by watching. The parents didn't stop them or even seem to be concerned, funny thing is I didn't see any of them boiling the water before hand.
    We live in a different time now were you have to wonder if anything is either safe or unsafe even when they tell you it is. I don't drink unfiltered tap water even when they say it is safe.

    So I go over to Danehy Park in Cambridge..

    and there's a nice water fountain there for the dogs in the nice dog section they built there recently and I was filling a gallon jug to take home with me when some 60's holdover with the balding head and the ridiculous ponytail says "HEY! YOU CAN"T DO THAT! ARE YOU A CAMBRIDGE RESIDENT?". I replied no and he said he was going to call the cops. Only when I explained it was for my dog and this was how much he'd drink there anyways and not for me did he relent.

    And they say the next world war will be fought over oil? I don't think so.

    Contaminate This!

    By on

    hey i live in peabody; we been told not to drink our tap water for years; i still drink it and i am fine.

    ah, neighborliness

    By on

    I work in Cambridge. I can easily visualize this encounter and it is painful to do so. What a tool, that guy. :(

    Fighting over water rights

    By on

    Since the beginning of time there have been fights over food and water at times when it became scarce. The problem is as Americans in the US today we think it can't happen here, but oh it can. I hope this is not the start of THE WAR BETWEEN THE CITIES because THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES was bad enough with the many lives that were lost. Although I find it comforting to think that the next war we fight over oil or what ever, that maybe we can stop it before it starts if we tell them it is for our dogs instead of for us.