Waterline Connection Proposed for Residents with Contaminated Wells

Residents who learned recently that their wells are contaminated with organic compounds, suspected of being from the Tinkham Garage Superfund Site on Route 102, have concerns surrounding a proposed remedial water line connection.

Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) met last week with those residents – some have contaminated wells, while others live in the area of the 375-acre Superfund Site –  to discuss the proposed water line, future monitoring and how the EPA plans to move forward with studying the affected wells.

In total, the EPA identified five homes with contaminated wells – two were contaminated, but not above drinking water standards, and three other wells were contaminated above drinking water standards.

None of the contaminants found in the wells were at levels of acute toxicity, according to DES Project Manager Kenneth Richards.

All five homes have been provided with bottled water or treatment at the source until a more permanent solution – the water line – is available.

“I think the focus for us is it’s not an issue coming onto Pennichuck Water. The issue is, why do we have to pay for it?” asked Brian Dingman of 18 Charleston Ave. “I figure I’m going to use $250 to $300 per month for my irrigation at the house. As anyone would think, I didn’t cause this problem, why aren’t they paying for it?”

EPA Remedial Project Manager Cheryl Sprague said federal regulations allow the agency to put in the water line, but do not provide for the federal government to pay for the water.

In the case of the proposed water line extension to the affected homes, the “Responsible Parties,” a group of 30 companies responsible for the remediation of the Tinkham Superfund Site, will pay for the connection.

The waterline to be extended was installed in 1983 to provide alternative water to more than 400 residents living southwest of the Tinkham Garage Superfund Site.

Sprague noted to date, none of those residents has had their water subsidized by the “Responsible Parties.”

“The Responsible Parties have more means of providing more financial obligations,” she said. “It’s not out of the question. The way the government works is, we request the Parties work on the access and work on getting us the connections, because the primary importance is of course making sure you’re not drinking this water anymore. I don’t know any sites that pay for a continuing water supply.”

Other residents asked why the Responsible Parties won’t connect neighboring homes whose wells haven’t yet tested positive for contaminants, as a precautionary measure.

Sprague said the EPA and Responsible Parties are focused at this time on remediating affected wells, but will continue to monitor other wells in the area with quarterly testing.

Richards noted it is important all homeowners test their wells annually to ensure their drinking water is safe.

In addition to installing the water line connections, the EPA plans to complete further studies to determine if some solvents got deeper into the bedrock than originally anticipated, as well as studies of affected wells.

“This work will help us better understand what is going on in the fractures, where the solvents are moving to and help us identify any other connection to residential properties,” she said. “We asked the parties to continue quarterly sampling. We don’t want to miss the next house. We ask that you participate so we can continue to have information until we know where groundwater flow is going.”

The testing completed last year, in which the contaminated wells were identified, was subsidized with funds from the initial $90 million in settlements the State received from gasoline suppliers for spills at sites across New Hampshire.

The remaining wells tested were found to be clean of contaminants.

A Draft Explanation of Significant Differences, which establishes the contaminants found in the residential area are similar to those found at the Tinkham Garage Site, has been posted on the Town website at  HYPERLINK “http://www.londonderrynh.org” www.londonderrynh.org.

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