Friday, June 30, 2006
Carlisle School faces intermittent water shortage
"What is it with all the water going out all the time?" asked Carlisle School Committee (CSC) member Christy Barbee at the CSC meeting on June 21. School Business Manager Steven Moore explained that the school water tanks have occasionally run dry, but it is usually due to "catastrophic" events such as a sink tap left open, or a toilet running. Moore said the staff runs around "shaking toilet handles" and after the source is found, the tanks will fill up within two hours.
"Do you think it is the old dishwasher?" Barbee asked. Moore confirmed the school's dishwasher is very old, but said there are other parts of the system that contribute to the problem, and there is no easy way to monitor or stop it. Committee member Wendell Sykes wondered if additional tanks would help. Moore reassured the committee the lack of water would not affect fire safety in the school.
Water supply is "marginal"
Reached later by e-mail, Carlisle School Buildings and Grounds Supervisor David Flannery explained, "The school's single well pumps in at 14 gallons per minute (840 gallons per hour)." He added, "This well was drilled in 1969 and produces between 5,000 and 6,000 gallons a day. We have two gravity storage tanks which total 3,000 gallons and one pressure tank which holds about 900 gallons. Our daily flow averages somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 gallons each day. This makes our water supply marginal."
The tanks can empty if the water is drawn down steadily, such as a toilet sticking and flushing constantly. This happened once with a toilet in the Highland Building, which is connected to the school's water system. Another time a contractor filled the new septic pump station tank, without first notifying Flannery, who said that in such cases, "The supply is drawn down in a matter of minutes and we run out, sometimes in the middle of the day. This has happened at least four times this year."
What happens when the water runs out? Flannery explained that the water is shut off for about an hour until one of the tanks refills. Then water is restored to one building, such as Wilkins. About an hour later a second tank has refilled enough to restore water to a second school building. The number of people affected depends on the time of day when the problem occurs.
The problem has not yet been severe enough to force the administration to close the school early. Another factor to be considered is that the process of dismissing students early can itself take a couple of hours, by which time the water shortage may be largely resolved.
Situation is long-standing
The problem of water storage was discussed in 1987 during construction of the Corey building, Flannery said, and a 1,000-gallon storage tank was added at that time. He and his team have made improvements to fixtures and have added conservation devices. "It has helped some," he said. "I brought this problem up again in 1997 during the expansion. DEP [the state Department of Environmental Protection] has also made recommendations on this problem. It again was my number one priority with the engineers during the master plan study this past year."
Fire safety not affected
Flannery, who is also the Carlisle Fire Chief, said the water supply issue does not affect fire safety, because an emergency supply of water is kept stored in a separate, self-contained sprinkler tank designed to supply water to the sprinklers even during a power failure. As long as there is no major fire, only a little well-water is used each year to ensure the tank is full. In addition, there is a fire cistern at the bottom of Church Street.
© 2006 The