ATKINSON — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is joining residents and town officials in calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to act on contaminated well water.
In the coming weeks, the EPA is expected to announce how it will handle some 34 homes with well water contaminated with 1,4 Dioxane.
A community meeting will be held on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Atkinson Community Center. The EPA’s decision will be announced to the public at the meeting, according to Barbara Snicer, town administrative assistant.
In the meantime, town officials haven’t heard anything from the EPA or the state Department of Environmental Services regarding the EPA’s response, according to Snicer.
“They’ve gone over several options,” she said. “There will be nothing more than that until (Nov. 14) to my knowledge, unless they do notify the office in between.”
Dioxane is a manmade, cancer-causing compound the state began to require testing for in 2011. The contamination was accidentally discovered near the end of last year, after well water containing Dioxane was being tested for other impurities.
In a letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Shaheen urged the agency to provide the needed funds to Atkinson “to extend the town water line to residents whose drinking water has been contaminated.”
“Representatives from Atkinson and leadership of the (DES) have concluded that an extension of the town’s waterline is the way to address the contamination,” Shaheen wrote. “Now that a viable solution has been identified, I hope that the EPA will approve the funds for extension of the town’s water line as soon as possible.”
It may not be that easy, according to Snicer.
“The issue is that most of the funds for this sort of thing have been used up for this particular calendar year,” she said. “We appreciate Sen. Shaheen’s efforts to encourage them to try to find the money, so we can resolve this problem for our residents as soon as possible.”
Mike Wimsatt, director of the DES Waste Management division, said he is hopeful the EPA will provide the funding. If it does, design work for the project would begin immediately and construction would start in the spring. Clean water would be in the neighborhood by next fall under that scenario.
If the EPA doesn’t have the resources to tackle the project, “we’d continue to provide bottled water to the affected residents,” Wimsatt said. “It’s not as though there is another source of the kind of money we’d need to do this project.”
Properties testing positive for Dioxane fall within a “plume” centered around Emery and Belknap Drives, two residential streets southwest of the intersection of Routes 111 and 121.
The DES is currently supplying bottled water to 16 households with well water containing 3 micrograms of Dioxane per liter of water or higher. The other properties testing positive for Dioxane are showing levels below that threshold, but still high enough to cause concern.
The DES is also investigating what may have caused the contamination in the first place.
One possible source of the contamination could have been a release of a chlorinated solvent in 1989 from a nearby company that manufactured rolled aluminum. Another possibility is contamination from an oil or gasoline spill that happened in the area several years ago.