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MANSFIELD — A second day into the city’s water emergency, residents turned out in droves Monday at the public works facility near East Street to collect a crate of free water.
A steady stream of cars were directed by police in and out of the facility after it opened at 2 p.m.
Residents were advised on Sunday to boil drinking water at home or use bottled water because E. coli bacterial contamination had been found in the city’s drinking water.
“It took me about seven minutes. They have a good system in place,” said Mike Robitaille as he left the establishment. “I also have bottled water at home.”
“I boiled a lot of water,” Caroline Connaughton said, driving off with her two children in the back of her SUV. “I have water everywhere at home.”
So far, Connaughton said his family is coping with the crisis well, using the sterilized water for ice cream and brushing their teeth.
“You have to be vigilant,” she said.
The cars were checked by city officials to verify identification as proof of residence and water was handed out as the cars exited in two lines. A man driving a forklift brought pallets of water to distribution points.
“Good job, guys,” a man shouted as he left after picking up a crate of water.
On Sunday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., the first day of bottled water distribution, authorities distributed 2,000 cases, according to fire chief Justin Desrosiers, the city’s director of emergency management.
Contrary to what some people were writing on social media, officials did not run out of water on Sunday. The chief said there was a 20 minute delay in getting water to the facility.
“No one went without water,” Desrosiers said.
Because the distribution started on Sunday, the chief said there was a delay in supplying vendors with staff and water.
“Once we got it up and started it was pretty good,” Desrosiers said.
The chief said he expected another 2,000 cases to be distributed on Monday.
The center is expected to reopen from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, said general manager Kevin Dumas.
“We will continue water distribution this week until at least Thursday,” Dumas said.
Water delivery times have been adjusted as the center’s opening on Monday coincided with traffic exiting schools on East Street and St. Mary’s School on Pratt Street (Highway 106).
The distribution center is staffed by members of the fire department and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
Firefighters also distributed water to seniors living in the Bicentennial Court, Park Court and Cedar Court complexes operated by the municipal housing authority, Desrosiers said.
City officials expect the water problem to be resolved by Friday.
Boiling water for one minute kills bacteria in the water and makes it drinkable and usable for brushing teeth, washing dishes and preparing food, officials said. Pets should also only be given bottled or boiled water.
It is safe to use city water for washing hands, bathing and laundry, officials say.
“As you would expect with this type of situation, we have received a tremendous number of inquiries about how residents can keep themselves and their families safe,” Dumas said. “Most of the questions were related to cleaning.”
The bacteria could cause disease, especially in young people, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
Local schools were open on Monday with some changes to deal with the water crisis.
“Today schools were open as scheduled with no disruptions, and students and staff were asked to bring bottles of water to drink,” Superintendent Teresa Murphy said in an email. “Breakfast and lunch were served in all schools as usual. Toilets were open in all schools with water available for hand washing” as well as additional hand sanitizer.
City officials say they are adding more chlorine at treatment plants and will sample water as required by state Department of Environmental Protection regulations.
Residents of Foxboro served by Mansfield water must boil their water or use bottled water, but residents of Mansfield served by Attleboro water need not do either.
E. coli has been detected in many municipal water systems in the area over the years, but DPW acting director Josh Reinke said the city hasn’t had an E. coli for over 25 years.
For more information, visit www.mansfieldma.com or call the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.
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