ATKINSON — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen met with state and local officials Monday to learn more about contaminated well water and to voice her support for adding Deer Run Road to the list of streets slated for a new water line to address the problem.
“Access to safe drinking water is one of the most basic functions of government, and I think everybody’s working with the best of intentions here to try and insure that people are protected, but we want to make sure that we’re as careful and thorough as possible,” Shaheen said after the meeting at the Atkinson Town Hall.
As many as 47 private wells have shown some level of contamination from 1,4 Dioxane, a compound used in chemical solvents that may increase the risk of cancer.
The contamination was discovered two years ago. Since then, the state has provided bottled water to homes where the chemical found in the wells tested over 3 parts per billion while working with the federal Environmental Protection Agency on a plan to install water lines to provide safe drinking water from Hampstead Area Water Company.
According to Michael Wimsatt, director of the Waste Management Division of the state Department of Environmental Services, 18 homes have tested above the state’s standard of 3 ppb; 19 were above .35 ppb but below 3 ppb; and 10 were below .35 ppb.
While the source of the contamination hasn’t been officially determined yet, Wimsatt said it most likely came from the former Johnston & Johnston aluminum manufacturing facility in the late 1980s.
A line has been installed on Island Pond Road but more lines are planned along Belknap Drive, Emery Drive, Brookside Terrace and Oak Ridge Drive. The EPA project was estimated to cost around $2 million, but officials said it appears the total cost will come in below that, possibly allowing for the addition of a line on Deer Run Road to be added.
In December, Shaheen, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kuster sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on the agency to connect all of the Atkinson homes with contaminated water to new water mains. The letter specifically addressed Deer Run Road.
“The situation for the residents on Deer Run Road, where construction of a water main is not currently planned, is also of concern. Six of the nine homes on this street have had detections of the contaminant. In the event that future monitoring shows increased concentrations of the contaminant in any of these homes, these residents will have no viable option to obtain a safe, clean source of drinking water since there would be no water main to which to connect and no reliable in-home water treatment technology is currently available.
Given the small additional cost that is within the current budget, we believe that it would be both proper and prudent that all homes testing for 1,4-Dioxane contamination be connected to the water main,” the letter said.
According to the letter, residents were informed at an EPA-hosted meeting in November that only homes where contamination levels were at or above 3 ppb would be connected to the local public water system.
Town Administrator Bill Innes said he would be “disappointed” if the EPA doesn’t include Deer Run Road.
Paul DiMaggio, who lives on Emery Drive, is one of the residents receiving bottled water for drinking and cooking and has represented affected residents throughout the process.
“I think Shaheen has the picture. I think selectmen have the picture. It’s important to get those Deer Run guys hooked up,” DiMaggio said.
He estimated it would cost about $100,000 to add the line down Deer Run Road, but there would be an additional cost to connect the homes.
If the EPA won’t include Deer Run Road, DiMaggio said a citizen-petitioned warrant article would be submitted asking voters to approve the funding.
Geographically, Wimsatt said, it doesn’t make sense not to include a line down Deer Run Road given its close proximity to other areas where water has been contaminated.
“Our concern was that, while we understand they need to use certain criteria to decide whether they’re going to do the project or not, it would be our view that once they do the project they need to really just use practical common sense,” Wimsatt firstname.lastname@example.org