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Hampstead officials seek temporary solutions to dry wells

By Ryan Lessard
Union Leader Correspondent

September 13. 2018 11:13PM

HAMPSTEAD — Homeowners living in a Main Street neighborhood have struggled for months with little to no water getting drawn from their wells, and permanent solutions appear to be at least two years out.

Sean Murphy, chairman of the Hampstead Board of Selectmen, said one family in particular has been completely without well water for four months. Several others have experienced chronic water issues in the same neighborhood, he said.

While an ultimate solution may not be available until after spring of 2020, Murphy said he is looking to find temporary solutions for affected homes.

“It’s not an … envious situation to be in,” Murphy said. “We’ll try to help them out as best we can.”

At a public hearing during a Board of Selectmen meeting Monday, about 30 or 40 residents turned out to express concerns or hear solutions. At one point, the crowd was asked to give a show of hands if they had been affected by the water issues. Murphy estimates about 75 percent raised their hands.

Much off the meeting discussed the potential long-term solution of running a water line from Hampstead Area Water Company.

Josh Manning, general manager of the company, directed people at the meeting to submit formal requests for service on the company website.

Murphy said another option could be Pennichuck Water Works. Pennichuck serves Nashua and has a number of franchises in Derry, particularly in East Derry, according to Department of Public Works Director Mike Fowler.

“One of those two would be able to get water up to that area,” Murphy said.

Who gets the franchise would depend on which company makes a better offer and is able to obtain the franchise from the Public Utilities Commission, Murphy said.

Pennichuck CEO Larry Goodhue said the company has no plans to make an offer.

“We’re not looking to expand our franchise area to communities we don’t already serve,” Goodhue said.

Hampstead Water Company would need additional water sourced from Manchester Water Works, which is expected to become available through a pipeline project by spring of 2020.

Senate President Chuck Morse, who attended the recent hearing at the invitation of Sen. Regina Birdsell, said the water infrastructure project would bring water south along Route 28 to Salem. It’s funded by a combination of state funds from the MTBE settlement fund, local community investments and loans, Morse said.

The cause of the dry wells, even during a period of frequent rains and no drought, remains a mystery.

Roger Skillings, owner of Skillings & Sons, Inc., said drilling new wells will not fix the problem, and he doesn’t know how to explain it.

“This is highly unusual,” Skillings said. “I don’t care where you drill, there is no water in the vein.”

Skillings has been in business for 45 years, he said.

At one of the affected homes in Hampstead, Skillings sent cameras down a deep bedrock well to inspect it, but Skillings said they saw no movement.

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