Great Barrington Select Board Approves Housatonic Water Works Audit Application


Board member Eric Gabriel holds a bottle with “a small sample of water from my tap” from Housatonic Water Works during the board meeting on Monday, July 25. Screenshot by editor Shaw Israel Izikson.

Greater Barrington— At its regular meeting on Monday, July 25, the Select Board approved part of a citizen petition seeking a state audit of Housatonic Water Works.

Housatonic resident Denise Forbes and Great Barrington resident Sharon Gregory, along with the group Residents for Safe Water, started the petition earlier this year.

The petition asks the state to allow the city to take over Housatonic Water Works through eminent domain, converting it into a quasi-governmental organization with independent advice and oversight, and to deny approval of any request for additional funding. by the Society.

The petition also asks the state auditor to study Housatonic Water Works’ finances and “its lack of adequate investment as a private public utility that endangers public health.”

In May, the petition campaign ended with over 1,200 signed petitions sent to Governor Bakeraccompanied by a letter from Forbes and Gregory.

At the July 25 meeting, board chairman Stephen Bannon read from the filing a letter supporting a state audit of the company.

Bannon sought approval from board members to send the letter to Governor Baker.

The letter, as read by Bannon, states: “Aware of the issues identified [in the petition] and having the utmost concern for the quality of the city’s residents’ water supply, the Select Board approves the audit proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.

A motion to approve the letter was made by Board Member Leigh Davis and seconded by Ed Abrahams.

“I hope it works out,” Abrahams said.

“That’s the first step,” Bannon said. “We still have a long way to go.”

Council passed the motion unanimously, and City Manager Mark Pruhenski said he would send the letter to the governor’s office.

During the citizen feedback portion of the meeting, resident Erica Mielke thanked council for sending the letter to Governor Baker.

“As someone who’s only been in Housatonic for six months, I keep hearing people talk about it and it seemed like a minor thing that people made a big deal out of,” Mielke said. “I’ve heard people say ‘oh, just be patient and rinse the water out’ or ‘oh, it only affects a few people.’ Before living here, it was easy for me to not know how real this uncertainty is by feeling a lack of confidence in drinking water.

In response, towards the end of the Zoom meeting, coach Eric Gabriel showed the board a brown colored bottle of water.

“This is just a small sample of water from my tap,” Gabriel said. “I guess being a member here and being a resident of Housatonic for so long, I guess it’s just another day. It wore some of us out, but I’m grateful to the board for approving the letter.


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