By Alex Lippa
---- — ATKINSON — Residents of Emery and Belknap Drive soon may be able to use the water that flows from their taps.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced it plans to spend up to $2 million to construct a water line to more than two dozen homes with contaminated wells.
That’s welcome news to town officials and residents, many of whom have been using bottled water for everything — from brushing their teeth to washing produce.
The contamination was discovered in 2011 when the water was being tested for other substances. All 34 homes affected are on Emery and Belknap Drives.
“This is tremendous,” Selectman Todd Barbera said yesterday. “This will be put toward money that would be a permanent fix for those affected.”
Barbera said he hoped the money would be enough to cover the entire project, but wouldn’t know until he sees a price estimate.
In January, Town Administrator Bill Innes estimated the cost of the project would be closer to $3 million.
“If it doesn’t cover the entire cost, then we would have to review our options,” Barbera said.
Wells affected contain at least a trace of 1,4 Dioxane, a compound which has been known to cause cancer. The state Department of Environmental Services has provided bottled water to homes with well water containing 3 micrograms of Dioxane.
Innes applauded the EPA’s decision yesterday.
“This is critical to the residents of Atkinson who have been affected by 1,4 Dioxane, and to the town as a whole,” he said.
DES is still investigating the cause of the contamination.
Just last month, EPA funding looked uncertain.
“The EPA as a whole is trying to determine what the proper action level for this contaminant should be,” John McKeown, the EPA’s on-scene coordinator for the project, said in April. “We are taking a step back and assessing the universes of these types of sites.”
In October, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, seeking funding for the project.
“Making sure that citizens throughout New Hampshire have access to clean, reliable drinking water is critical to protecting the public health of Granite State citizens and families,” Shaheen said. “The announcement of funding for the water line extension is welcome news for the town of Atkinson, and I look forward to continuing to work with the EPA and town officials in our efforts to protect residents’ safety.”
Barbera said he hopes the news means residents can return to normal.
“People have been trying to sell their houses and haven’t been able to,” he said. “They have had their lives disrupted.”