Funds will be used to fix Colebrook water systemBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
February 12. 2018 11:00PM
COLEBROOK — Thanks to a $1.15 million award from the Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund, the town will be able to continue fixing what has been called one of the leakiest municipal water systems in New Hampshire.
In July 2016 the town embarked upon an ambitious, $6 million project to remove and replace the existing water and sewer lines on Main Street and in the immediate downtown area.
Selectman Ray Gorman explained that some of the lines were first installed in the 1890s, adding that an estimated 80 percent of water in the lines was lost before reaching consumers. Meanwhile, the sewer lines had the problem in reverse, being infiltrated by water and thereby costing the town significantly more to treat the extra volume.
The project has been supported by Colebrook voters, as well as partners including USDA Rural Development and the state of New Hampshire, which on Feb. 7 stepped up again in the form of a vote by Gov. Chris Sununu and the Executive Council to make Colebrook the first recipient of money from the Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund.
The fund was created in 2016 by the Legislature in response to the settlement of the state’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil for groundwater contamination caused by the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE).
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, MTBE was added to gas to make it burn cleaner. The EPA said MTBE was a member of a group of chemicals known as ’“oxygenates” because they raise the oxygen content of gasoline.’” At room temperature, MTBE is “a volatile, flammable and colorless liquid that dissolves rather easily in water,” the EPA said.
Under the settlement with Exxon, New Hampshire received $276 million which financed the Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund.
Gov. Sununu and Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, in a prepared statement celebrated the use of Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund money in Colebrook.
“For years, we have heard how the state could not control local property taxes, but what we have done is use our Drinking and Groundwater Trust Fund grants to give our local towns more financial flexibility to target key areas of need,” said Sununu.
Morse, who is also chair of the Drinking Water and Groundwater Commission, said the funding will make “vast improvements to failing water and sewer infrastructure in Colebrook,” adding that it will help shore up “inadequate federal funding to meet increased project costs.”
Colebrook, he said, “serves as an example of what we hope to continue to do with this fund in order to address other urgent and emerging water supply needs across the state.”