Harwich Fire Chief issues statement regarding foam in town water system

HARWICH – From Harwich Fire Chief David LeBlanc: On Tuesday, April 9, 2024, The Harwich Fire Department responded to Dennis for a building fire on Great Western Road right near the Town line.

Via Cape Cod Incidents/CWN

Our Engine 64 arrived first and used a Harwich hydrant for water supply. Our engines only carry 500 gallons of water, and for significant fires, a hydrant is needed. During initial firefighting efforts, there was not enough water available from the hydrant in Harwich. The solution to this is usually to put a second engine at the hydrant and have them pump the hydrant, increasing the pressure and volume of water available. In yesterday’s fire, the second arriving engine came from Dennis, the secured their own hydrant for water supply and tied into Engine 64 to provide them with more water. This is another way to increase the amount of water available.

During firefighting operations, a gasoline tank on a vehicle in the building let go and the gasoline ignited. Flammable liquids fires are most effectively extinguished with foam, and we carry foam for this purpose.

Late yesterday afternoon the Water Department and Fire Department received several calls reporting bubbles, foam in the drinking water in North Harwich by Depot and Great Western. The Fire Department was in immediate contact with Water Department Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent about these complaints and the water department began flushing the hydrant we used for the fire earlier in the day. During this operation what appeared to be foam was visible in the water. As the Water Department continued their investigation, The Fire Department looked into our operation to try and determine how our foam could have ended up in the water system.

Ultimately with the information gathered we pieced together what we believe the cause to be.

Engine 64 was being fed from two different water sources, and those sources had different pressures, when the firefighters weren’t flowing water on the fire, the pressure from the Dennis water system caused the foam solution to back feed into the Harwich water system.

In total 25 gallons of foam was used at the fire and most of it was used in and around the fire building, however, apparently enough was back fed into the system to cause the problem that was discovered.

Several years ago, we disposed of all of our old legacy foam that contained PFAS or other harmful chemicals and switched to and environmentally friendly foam called Muni Green.

From the National Foam Website, “Muni®F3 Green 3% is a superior quality, synthetic fluorine free foam concentrate, designed for municipal firefighters on Class A and B hydrocarbon fires. “Muni®F3 Green is Green Screen certified*, assuring that no regrettable chemical substitutes have been used in the formulation. MuniF3 Green 3% is a patented formulation producing a vapor sealing blanket of foam that rapidly spreads over the surface of the fuel to provide rapid control and extinguishment.”

“I regret that this problem was caused by our operations at the fire, and although it is not something I could have ever anticipated happening, that doesn’t lessen the significance of the incident or the impact.” – Fire Chief David LeBlanc

As of 12:00 PM, the Do Not Drink order has been changed to the area of North Harwich where the foam was first discovered.

The Town Administrator, in conjunction with the Water Department, Public Safety and Department of public works has set up a water distribution point for the affected residents at the Family Pantry this afternoon.

Additional Information:

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Hyannis, MA 02601
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