Planning Board Discusses Groundwater Protection

By Jerome Reuter

Groundwater protection was on the agenda as the Londonderry Planning Board met on Sept. 8. The meeting began with a presentation via zoom from Pierce Rigrod, supervisor of the NHDES Source Protection Program. He went over some essential guidelines and initiatives for the protection of groundwater. Since its passing in 1991, the NH Groundwater Protection Act has authorized the NHDES (NH Department of Environmental Science) to oversee the best standards and practices related to maintaining the integrity of groundwater.
One of the key points of Rigrod’s presentation was implementing a comprehensive strategy in land management. By eliminating harmful variables in the land adjacent and near to a water supply is essential preserving its quality. “Whatever you’re developing contains a number of risks” Rigrod mentioned during his presentation. The building of roads and poorly managed agriculture can lead to chemical and pesticide deposits. Hazardous and Solid waste disposal sites were identified as potential risk areas that were recommended to be prohibited.
The graveness of the situation was clear upon Rigrod presenting a table showing some of the harmful elements located in Londonderry’s water supply. Considerable traces of Arsenic. Radon, Sodium, and Uranium were all detected. Rigrod recommended testing the water supply every 3 to 5 years to maintain a quality assurance. Arsenic has been a consistent issue with NH’s water supply, with 1 in 4 well is the state having traces above the recommended limit. “Long term exposure leads to liver cancer, bladder cancer, and some forms of cardiovascular disease.”
Rigrod explained “People exposed to high levels of arsenic over a long period of time run the risks of being impacted…by and large most residents of NH are not testing their water.” Radon was found to have exceedingly high concentrations, with over half the wells having substantial amounts.
“How did these contaminants fly under the radar for so long?” Board member Ann Chiampa asked, surprised that traces from some of the chemicals had been found as far back as the 1980s. Rigrod went on to explain that petroleum storage facilities and landfills had been a major contributing factor to many of the chemicals being found, but the awareness about the hazards they threatened had not been available. “As high impact events took place and water supplies were found contaminated by petroleum…the political will to protect these resources was impacted on a state level.”
“How do we as a town get started…Where do we begin?” Deb Paul asked, regarding the implementation of Rigrod’s proposed initiatives. “A committee is a good place to start… Having education and public awareness.” Rigrod advised that implementing changes such as these take time. Paul reasserted that Londonderry has no intention of “reinventing the wheel”, but asked if Rigrod’s organization would be willing to lend help and support. “Someone who deals with this on a regular basis is certainly available from us…but on a limited basis.”
Deb Paul voiced her support for the procedures, “I would love to see us move forward…” This sentiment was also shared from Chiampa: “I’m glad we’re working on this. Hopefully we’ll get to see groundwater protection in 2021.”
While there was minimal attendance from the public during this meeting, one resident, Ray Breslin was all too eager to show his enthusiasm. “A town committee should definitely be formed… I think we need to present this to the schools. We need to have the children involved in their health and welfare…the protection of water.” When asked by the board if he would be interested in volunteering his time, Breslin responded with an emphatic “Hell yeah.”

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