A contamination fence sits atop the surface of one of Skowhegan’s drinking water ponds at Maine Water near Water Works Drive in Skowhegan on Friday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

SKOWHEGAN — The “Do Not Drink” order has been lifted.

Maine Water Co. President Rick Knowlton said in a release Tuesday that after reviewing test results from a state-certified laboratory of samples from Maine Water’s Skowhegan system, Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention confirmed that the water meets all state and federal drinking water standards.

Customers may resume use of water for all purposes, including drinking and food preparation. It is recommended that customers run the cold water through the largest tap in the house for a few minutes to flush any stagnant water that may be in their own home’s internal plumbing.

Water is still being provided from the Kennebec River, an alternative to the upper and lower ponds at the Water Treatment Facility, from which the system typically pulls.

“We know this event has been a big inconvenience for our customers,” Knowlton said. “We thank our customers, employees, municipal and state officials, the media, and our partners in the business community for their support and patience as we conducted our investigation, made operational changes and confirmed the water quality in the system through independent lab analysis.”

While the order was in place, Maine Water Co. partnered with municipal and state officials and local businesses to supply water to the 6,000 affected customers. This included nursing homes, Somerset County Jail, medical facilities and schools.

When the issue was discovered last Thursday, Maine Water Co. worked to confirm the water quality, and test results later confirmed that there were no regulated contaminants detected and that the water meets all state and federal water quality standards.

The cause of the soapy smell in the water, first noticed Thursday, is still being investigated. It appears to be related to construction work done on a dam between the Upper and Lower ponds, the primary water source for Skowhegan.

“We recently installed a new flow control structure between the two ponds,” Knowlton said. “(On Nov. 9) we were working to reduce leakage around the new structure. Our very strong suspicion today is that project work is connected to the odor, but we need confirmation through further laboratory analysis, which is underway.”

“The good news is that on a project like that, we only use materials with NSF 61 certification, which means they are safe for use in drinking water applications,” Knowlton said. “Maine Water will answer the question of ‘what happened’ and we will share our findings with our customers, the Skowhegan community and Maine’s Drinking Water Program.”

A spring feeds a drinking water pond behind the Maine Water Co. facility on Water Works Drive in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

While the order was in place, residents were asked during that time to use tap water only for laundry, bathing and dishwashing. The problem was detected last week when Maine Water Co.’s Skowhegan Division notified Maine CDC’s Drinking Water Program of a complaint from a customer of an unusual taste and odor coming from the faucet.

The ponds used by Maine Water Co. were disconnected from the system while the investigation was proceeding and only the Kennebec River was supplying water to the treatment plant.

Knowlton said that Skowhegan’s two spring-fed ponds at the Water Treatment Facility on Heselton Street have been the source of water since the 1930s, he said. The water being pulled from the Kennebec River was used to flush millions of gallons of water from the system to clear out any contamination.

Bottled water distribution was organized at the Skowhegan Community Center on Poulin Drive each day during business hours for residents to grab while the order was in place.

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