School District Explains Watering Policies in Wake of Drought

In light of a long-term extreme drought and the state’s request to conserve water, the Londonderry School Board and Administration are taking a proactive approach.

The board discussed water issues at its Sept. 27 meeting. Facilities Director Chuck Zappala and Business Manager Peter Curro updated the board and television audience on how the district is working to conserve this precious resource.

Board member Steve Young initiated the discussion, noting that “We’ve only had half the normal precipitation this year. It’s folly to assume that one rainstorm and the drought is solved.”

Curro said the district has two irrigation ponds, one that’s been in place for a number of years and one that was created five or six years ago. The ponds collect 75 percent of all the runoff on the main campus, he said. It was designed by the late Robert Lincoln, who also laid out the design for the fields, and is the main source of irrigation for the playing fields, according to Curro.

In the second week of August, Curro said, a decision was made not to water the practice fields. That left three-quarters of the fields unwatered, he said. In addition, they determined to “cut back” on the watering of the game fields.

The athletic department and the music department, which oversees the marching band, agreed to cut back on their use of the practice fields.

“We conserved before they had an ordinance,” Curro said, referring to the water-ban ordinance being discussed by the Town Council (see related stories page 1 and 3).

With the sun dipping lower every day and the presence of dew on the grass, that should mitigate the need for water, Curro said. “There’s less sun in the fall, and less need of water,” he said.

Young asked Zappala if he has had to purchase and “truck in” any water.

“I’ve been here 30 years and I’ve had to do that three times,” Zappala said. The first two times, he contracted with Pennichuck, he said. This time around he contracted with a local pool water company and brought in five loads a day for three weeks.

“We purchased 150,000 gallons,” he said, at $200 per load.

Superintendent Nate Greenberg said, “Our plan at this time is to continue with the same practice. We will not water the practice fields, and in observance of the time of year, we will cut back on watering game fields.”

The district is cutting back to a bare minimum, Greenberg said. But he warned that it also needs to protect its investment. “We don’t want to destroy our fields,” he said. “It would be a major cost to bring them back.”

Though the school district is not subject to any water ban from the town, Greenberg also advised seeing what action if any the Town Council will take on the ban.

But for now, he said, “We are being extremely prudent.”

Board chair Nancy Hendricks agreed to postpone discussion of water issues to a future agenda.

Getting the lead out

In other business, Zappala reported on recent tests for lead in the water of school district buildings.

Zappala wrote in a memo that the district buildings have water provided by Pennichuck and Manchester Water Works and by law, the companies are required to provide testing for lead and other contaminants on a regular basis.

Over the summer, Zappala said, the district contracted with Almac Environmental and Nelson Analytical to perform water testing in all district buildings. Every faucet and every sink that would provide water for drinking were tested, he said. There were 135 tests in all.

Zappala reminded the board that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a limit of 15 parts per billion, or PPB, as an “action level” for dealing with lead in water.

All Londonderry’s faucets tested at less than 15 PPB, with the majority at 1 PPB or less, he said.

Zappala said the tests were done in accordance with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services protocol for a “first draw” sample. Fixtures were “flushed” for a minimum of 10 minutes, and then shut off and covered, with notices posted “not to use.” After eight hours, they took a sample from each device, he said.

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