Letter to the Editor

I find it necessary to respond to an article by Mr. Daniel O’Neill in the Item on September 8, 2016. The article was not authorized or approved by the Commission (Board), and it contained information that was inaccurate about the Lynn Water and Sewer five member Board and me in particular.

The Commission was created in 1982 by the Massachusetts Legislature (The Enabling Act of 1982, Chapter 381).  The Enabling Act governs action of the Commission and states “the powers of the Commission shall be exercised by a five member Board of Commissioners”.  It also states the Executive Director, hired by the Board, shall direct the affairs of the Commission as authorized or approved by the Board of Commissioners. The Executive Director works for and under the direction of the Commission Board.

As a duly appointed Commissioner I have the right and the duty to express my opinions on the operation of the Commission and to make motions. Mr. O’Neill may not agree with my opinion but he has no right to state that I micromanage the Commission when I express my opinion as a Commissioner. I act in accordance with the 1982 Enabling Act and take my job as a Commissioner seriously.

Mr. O’Neill falsely claims that “Commissioner David Ellis made a motion to change the water treatment process due to his own perceived safety concerns.” The only part of that statement that is accurate is I did make a motion August 10, 2015; the rest of the statement is inaccurate.

The motion I made at the August 10, 2015 Commission meeting was as follows:  “To have the Chief Procurement Officer get bids for a scope of work to change out the chlorine at the Water Treatment Plant.”  I asked Mr. O’Neill if the funds were available and he said yes.  Most importantly, the motion was unanimously passed by the Board. I didn’t lobby any Board member to vote for the motion. Mr. O’Neill was at the table and never raised any concerns about the motion passed unanimously by the Board.  Since then the Board has met with Mr. O’Neill and staff on numerous occasions to discuss the change out without any concerns being raised.

The Commission recently completed a similar project at the Waste Water Treatment Plant to convert from chlorine gas to liquid chlorine at the request of the Lynn City Council and union workers at the Plant because of safety hazard concerns. Safety concerns regarding chlorine gas were confirmed by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 and communicated to all US Water and Sewer Plants for them to make action plans to address the issue. Chlorine gas is extremely dangerous and could cause injuries and causalities during an accident.  The Lynn facility was only one of a handful in the country that still operated on chlorine gas.

After removing chlorine gas at the Waste Water Treatment Plant the next logical step was to do the same at the Water Treatment Plant.  A significant number of the water plants in Massachusetts no longer operate using chlorine gas because of safety concerns and are using liquid chlorine including Peabody’s two Water Plants that are compliant with all drinking water quality regulations. The use of liquid sodium hypochlorite (liquid chlorine) is a common practice throughout the country for disinfecting water. The U.S. Center of Disease Control states that liquid sodium hypochlorite is effective for disinfection for making water drinkable and safe.

Mr. O’Neill stated that “it is highly likely that Lynn’s water will not be in compliance.” Another inaccurate and speculative statement.  The PH balance in Lynn’s water will have to be adjusted but it is grossly irresponsible to tell residents that Lynn’s top quality drinking water will “highly likely not be in compliance.”   Based on my understanding, the treatment process for Lynn’s drinking water will not change.  The only difference is we are going from using gas chlorination to a safer liquid chlorination.

Mr. O’Neill states that “I do not wish to have Commissioner David Ellis changing the chemical composition of the city’s drinking water”, another outrageous totally false statement.  I don’t have the authority to change the chemical composition of Lynn’s drinking water.  I am one vote out of five on the Board of Commissioners.  Mr. O’Neil knows better and should not be making such false statements and using unfamiliar chemical names for liquid chlorine which residents use in their swimming pools to confuse the public and raise unwarranted public concerns.  I expect more professionalism from the Executive Director of the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission.

David D. Ellis

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