EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 28, 2013

Selectmen turn down dioxane proposal

Citizen's petition could be created

By Alex Lippa

---- — ATKINSON — Paul DiMaggio is one of the 18 lucky homeowners who will be getting hooked up to a new water line on the EPA’s tab.

But his attempt to help out his neighbors was denied by selectmen Monday.

DiMaggio, who lives at 14 Emery Drive, submitted a warrant article for the town to appropriate $160,000 to connect 19 other contaminated homes to the waterline, but selectmen rejected the article. DiMaggio will now opt to go the route of a citizens petition to get the item on the warrant at Town Meeting.

“We want houses who have the option to connect, to be taken care of,” DiMaggio said. “We have to protect the rest of our citizens.”

For more than a year, dozens of homes on Emery Drive, Belknap Drive, Brookside Terrace and Deer Run Road have had traces of 1,4 Dioxane in their wells.

Dioxane is a chemical known to cause cancer. Homes with wells that have Dioxane levels below that standard are not included in the federal program.

The source of the contamination may have been the release of a chlorinated solvent at the Johnston and Johnston property in 1989. The company, which manufactured rolled aluminum, sold the property at 128 Route 111 to Winfield Alloy, a recycling company, in 2005.

The contamination was discovered in 2012, and since then, the state Department of Environmental Services has provided bottled water to homes with well water containing 3 micrograms of Dioxane.

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would spend $2 million on the project to create a new water line, but would only hook up to homes which had more than three parts per billion of Dioxane.

DiMaggio’s plan calls for the remaining 19 homes which have access to the water line to be connected.

“We would cap it at $6,000 a household,” he said. “That should be about $114,000.”

With the money left, DiMaggio proposes that it goes toward connecting 14 homes which are along the water line, but show no traces of contamination.

“Two of those homes have wells with contamination on both sides of them, as well as across the street,” he said. “Twelve other homes have contaminated wells on at least one side of their house. They may not have traces right now, but that could happen at any time.”

The money provided for those homes would be capped at $3,000 per home.

Any money that’s left over would go toward 11 homes that do not have any contamination and do not abut anybody with contamination, but are along the waterline.

Selectmen turned down DiMaggio’s proposal 3-0 at Monday’s meeting.

Town Administrator Bill Innes said while he understood the desire for everyone to hook up to the new water line, that it is not that simple.

“You have to look at both sides of it,” Innes said. “I feel badly for the people who have Dioxane in the water, but there are all sorts of things that come up over time. If the Dioxane spreads further, then the town is going to set a precedent of funding the new pipe and hooking people up.”

At Monday’s meeting, Selectmen’s Chairman William Friel said his issue with the proposal was that the whole town hadn’t been tested.

“Beyond this, we don’t know who is or will be affected,” Friel said. “I have a challenge supporting a limited few affected residents. If the plume somehow expands, we have already set a precedent.”

Selectman Fred Thompson was also worried about setting a precedent.

“I appreciate what (DiMaggio) has done,” he said at the meeting. “But there’s just not enough specificity to it. I feel terrible for the residents, but as a town I’m not in favor of this at this point.”

Selectman William Baldwin also agreed.

“We’re only talking about a certain number of people,” he said at the meeting. “What if this is bigger than what’s here. Then where are we at?”

DiMaggio said he was disappointed with the selectmen’s decision, but understood where they were coming from.

“I agree that putting forward this proposed warrant in fact set such a precedent where it would be detrimental to the Town,” he said. “Though I believe if a residence has water contaminated above acceptable standards, then the Town must act as the final resort to provide them with potable water.”

DiMaggio now has to collect 25 signatures by Jan. 14 in order for the article to appear on the warrant as a citizen’s petition.

“I believe that in the end, the town is responsible to provide potable water for their residences,” he said. “If the EPA or Department of Environmental Services doesn’t come through, then the town is on the hook for it.”

U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-N.H., asked the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month to supply water to all homes who have contaminated wells. Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem also wrote a letter to the EPA this month.

“Hopefully it will end up being all for naught if that comes through,” DiMaggio said.

DiMaggio is also proposing a $157,000 warrant which would extend the water line to pass through Deer Run Road, where residents do not have an option to connect to the line.

“We hear all the time how communities across the country step in to provide relief to their neighbors who have been the victims of natural or man-made disasters,” he said. “I have no doubt that the residents of Atkinson will demonstrate the same compassion for the misfortune of their neighbors by supporting the two petitioned warrant articles that will be before them at Town Meeting.”