MERRIMACK — Local residents voted this week to have the Merrimack Village District spend $14.5 million to filter four public wells — a project that will increase user rates by nearly 80 percent.
“We want to get clean water sooner rather than later,” said State Rep. Rosemarie Rung, the lead petitioner of two warrant articles on the Merrimack Village District warrant seeking filtration systems.
With a vote of 264-22, voters agreed to spend $3.6 million to design and construct a water treatment system for what are known as wells seven and eight in Merrimack. And, with a vote of 264-24, voters also agreed to spend an additional $10.9 million to treat what are known as public wells two and three in Merrimack.
Although all four wells have the presence of perfluoroctanoic acid, or PFOA, ranging from 7 parts per trillion to about 28 ppt, the contamination levels are still below the state standard of 70 ppt; that number, however, is now being studied and could potentially be lowered.
“I am not going to wait around for the regulators to catch up with this … I don’t know if it is safe at any level in our water,” Don Provencher, an MVD commissioner, said on Tuesday of the PFOA contamination.
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics has already agreed to install filtration systems on two other public wells maintained and operated by the MVD after PFOA was discovered at its company faucets about three years ago. Those two wells are currently offline.
“This money that would be bonded does not preclude MVD from pursuing restitution from polluters,” stressed Rung, who maintained that the town should not have to wait to get clean water.
Two MVD commissioners were opposed to the bonds, both of them citing concerns about ongoing legal issues and potentially jeopardizing those matters.
Currently, the average MVD water user pays $315 a year, which will increase by 79 percent by fiscal year 2022 with the two new bonds and a new budget in place for a total of about $563 a year.
According to MVD officials, the average annual water payment throughout New Hampshire is about $577.
“We would still be very competitive,” said Rung.
According to her, MVD’s rates are now $1.95 per 100 cubic feet of water compared to Pennichuck’s rate of $3.30, Manchester’s rate of $1.51 and Aquarion’s rate of $4.54. Once the filtration systems are in place, MVD’s rate will jump to $2.94 per 100 cubic feet of water.