Council Discusses Wording on Public Water Warrant Article

By Chris Paul

The Town Council discussed the initial draft of a nonbinding warrant article that would be asking residents if they would be in favor of an expansion of the town water system.

The Londonderry’s Assistant Town Solicitor, Mike Malaguti, was asked to look into formulating the language to be used in the article by the members of the PFAS Committee and he brought some of findings forward at the Town Council meeting on Monday night, Oct. 19.

The initial wording that was presented by Malaguti read, “Are you in favor of the Town pursuing the expansion of water to residents and business across town, whether by means of a municipal water district, expansion of existing regulated utility systems, community water systems, incremental improvements to existing systems and supplies, a combination of these, or through other means? It is anticipated that these measures would be funded by a combination of state or federal grant and loan funding and municipal taxation.”

He added that the language being used was somewhat informed by a call that town staff had with DES last week. He said that through that call the town learned a number of things. One, they got information on a feasibility study being done by DES. He added that the study is specific to Londonderry. He said that the objectives to that study are to prepare a preliminary evaluation for an expansion of the public water system in Londonderry. Provide an assessment of connecting existing, small public water systems in Londonderry to serve areas where existing groundwater wells have been impacted by PFAS.

To determine water system upgrades, as necessary, in Manchester Water Works and Pennichuck East Utilities Water systems. And to establish budgetary cost estimates for the entire project.

Malaguti explained that the feasibility study is being divided into two phases.

The first would be: The consultant will make recommendations to DES and will focus on Manchester Water Works and Pennichuck East Utilities infrastructure improvements, establishing water line extensions into Londonderry and supporting infrastructure as necessary. This would focus on the area impacted by PFAS contamination.

He added that that first phase would be done some time in January and would include a cost estimate.

The second phase will be focusing on water lines to serve public water to each water customer impacted by PFAS. An additional review of Fire Flow availability would be accessed under Phase II to make sure flow rates are adequate. Those studies would not be done until March or April.

He told the council that this is good news for Londonderry, since the state would be paying for these studies, not Londonderry.

He finished by saying that the spirit of the warrant article that he brought forward was to gauge whether or not the voters would support the efforts of the town to expand public water.

Town Councilor Tom Dolan spoke to the proposed language saying that he felt the article needs to be clear that it is just to assess taxpayer opinion and does not authorize any expenditure of funds. He also wondered if staff has been notified on any long-term solutions in the Saint Gobaine consent decree area in town.

Assistant Town Manager, Lisa Drabik responded that no information has been shared with them about that area yet, or what steps are being taken by DES.
Dolan felt that the solution in the Saint Gobain consent decree area would be a good model to be used moving forward.

Concilor Deb Paul felt that it should also be made clear that if water is run throughout town, they should know whether water hook up would be made mandatory.

Malaguti responded that he did some investigating as to whether or not town’s have made it mandatory for residents to connect to water lines and didn’t see any evidence of that.

He also added that it might be easier to draft the warrant article with the results of the state’s feasibility study in hand, and he is trying to keep the article broad enough and specific enough for people to know what they are voting on.

No vote was taken on the language.

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