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Bedford water plan unveiled

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 14. 2017 10:49PM
Alex Carr delivers spring water to a home on Back River Road in Bedford, one of the homes identified as having elevated levels of contamination. (David Lane/Union Leader)

BEDFORD — State officials announced plans Friday for designing the extension of public water to 61 Bedford homes affected by contamination from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, but town officials still hope they reconsider the utility chosen to supply that drinking water.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services said Saint-Gobain has agreed to pick up the cost to design the delivery of service to drinking wells in the area containing perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA) above the state standard of 70 parts per trillion.

Pennichuck Corp. will perform that design work for the 61 homes and a water line connection to six other properties along South River Road is also being investigated, officials said.

“Saint-Gobain has made this commitment while NH DES continues to investigate other potentially responsible parties, who may also bear financial responsibilities,” said DES Public Information Officer Jim Martin. “Saint-Gobain has done this because of their focus on public health of the local communities and their employees.”

State officials concluded that extending public water to these homes is the “most efficient and cost-effective solution.”

But Bedford Town Manager Rick Sawyer said town officials and the affected residents expressed a preference that Manchester Water Works be the utility to deliver water to these homes.

“We are happy to hear they are moving forward with a solution,” Sawyer said. “We preferred they had gone with the other provider and would like the state to reconsider its decision.”

Pennichuck will be alerting affected property owners to a May 9 public meeting at the Peter Woodbury Elementary School.

Pennichuck CEO Larry Goodhue could not be reached for comment Friday.

This proposal would not address all properties in Bedford with PFOA levels above the state standard; a solution still needs to be found for another 30 homes in the Back River Road area, Sawyer said.

State Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, said he’s attended every single public meeting on this controversy and credits all parties with working toward a common goal.

“Look, clearly nothing has the potential to scare people more than when they turn their faucet on and question whether they can drink their water,” Sanborn began. “I am happy and thankful it looks like we are coming up with a solution and I fully expect all the stakeholders will continue working together to make sure this is done right.”

Sawyer said the town and some residents raised water quality and quantity concerns with utilizing Pennichuck that would extend its service from Merrimack to these Bedford homes.

“Residents had concerns about the quality of water and the quantity of water coming out of the Merrimack River, which is the source for Pennichuck’s water,” Sawyer said.

“We also felt more strongly that the Manchester system had showed signs of protecting their water source long term with a large aquifer (Lake Massabesic) while the Merrimack River is a groundwater source that has more potential to be easily contaminated over time.”

The state told Bedford officials treatment at Pennichuck water wells in Merrimack would ensure the quality of that resource.

Sawyer also said the Manchester Water Works option fits better into the town-wide water management master plan should the town in the future desire to extend public water to other Bedford neighborhoods. “This is a decision ultimately under the auspices of the state, we know DES finally will make the order but we would encourage all those impacted residents to please attend the meeting and be heard,” Sawyer said.

“I want to stress our sincere appreciation for both the state and Saint-Gobain’s work on this matter.”

Sanborn said the Pennichuck option is cheaper but the state is doing all it can to ensure residents get water they can rely upon.

“Pennichuck is significantly more cost advantageous and everyone involved has a high level of confidence that it can deliver water that is filtered, clean and ready to drink,” Sanborn said.

Public Safety Health Bedford Merrimack State Government Saint-Gobain

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