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Do Not Drink Order Lifted in the Town of Harwich Following Inadvertent Release of Firefighting Foam

Lab results show that no firefighting foam was detected in the water system after thorough flushing! The Do Not Drink Order in North Harwich has been lifted.

From the Harwich Fire Department 4/11/2024:

The Water Department is happy to report that the water sample test results taken in response to the firefighting foam incident have indicated no detection of firefighting foam. The Massachusetts Department of Environment Protection has given the Town the approval to lift the Do Not Drink order effective immediately.

The official certificate of analysis along with a map identifying the sample locations tested on 4/10 is available on the town’s website. In acknowledgement of the ongoing public concern the water department has collected an additional 5 samples today 4/11 and will continue to monitor and publish the test results to the Town’s website.

Although there has been no detection of Foam in the samples taken, residents may experience discoloration due to flushing operations. Residents who experience discolored water are encouraged to flush their home plumbing system by running all interior & exterior cold water taps simultaneously for approximately 10 minutes. Once completed, hot water fixtures should be run until the water runs cold ensuring a full flushing of the home’s hot water tank. Homes with tankless water heaters should run all hot water fixtures simultaneously for 10 minutes.

More updates regarding the water ban (which is now lifted) can be found at:

Do Not Drink Order Lifted – Water test results and sampling map | harwichma (

North Harwich Water update and flushing instructions for homeowners 4/10/2024 5:39PM | harwichma (

Town of Harwich, MA Public Water Utility | Harwich Water Department

Area Impacted

The following press release was issued by the Harwich Fire Department on April 10, 2024.

Summary: A building fire in Dennis caused the inadvertent release of firefighting foam into the Harwich Water System in North Harwich. This release caused a Do Not Drink Order to be implemented by the Water Department based on guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Details: 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.

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, they 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 and 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 believed 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 used 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 an environmentally friendly foam called Muni F3 Green 3%.

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. Muni F3 Green 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.”

Fire Chief David Le Blanc stated “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.”

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

Microsoft Word – NMS511_Muni Green Plus 3% AR-FFF Concentrate_09262022 (

For questions or interview opportunities contact:

Chief David LeBlance at (508) 430-7546