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January 15, 2014

State lifts Salem water order

DES has recommendations for Salem drinking water

SALEM — The state Department of Environmental Services has lifted a 17-year-old order that regulated the town’s use of Canobie Lake as a drinking water source.

Town Manager Keith Hickey announced to selectmen at their meeting Monday that the state is satisfied with the town’s compliance with the order, which required Salem to improve its water system and rely less on the lake for drinking water.

“I think it’s very significant,” Hickey said yesterday. “The town has been working with state town for the better part of 17 years.”

But the DES said more needs to be done to increase the town’s supply, including possibly purchasing water from Methuen or other communities.

The town was ordered to find alternative water sources and implement conservation efforts in February 1996, to make sure Canobie’s water levels didn’t drop too low, posing a threat to water quality and aquatic life. There also were concerns the town would not have enough drinking water available during a summer drought.

The town was notified last week by Sarah Pillsbury, administrator of the state’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau. No one from the DES was available for comment yesterday.

“The department concurs that Salem has completed the items required by the order,” Pillsbury said in her letter to the town. “A notice of compliance will be issued.”

But Pillsbury said the town must continue to make improvements to ensure water levels do not decrease significantly. The lake is the town’s only water supply during the summer, Hickey said.

“The department continues to have significant concerns about the adequacy of Salem’s drinking water supply and the potential for excessively drawing down the Canobie Lake during a drought, which may violate state surface water quality standards,” Pillsbury said.

Pillsbury recommends increasing the capacity of the town’s water treatment plan and also purchasing water from another community to place less of a strain on Salem’s system.

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