EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 27, 2013

Atkinson Dioxane issues to be fixed by next year

By Alex Lippa

---- — ATKINSON — For more than a year, 47 households have lived with traces of contaminants in their wells.

By next year, that should be an issue of the past.

The town is finalizing plans with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to begin work to construct a new water line. The work could begin as early as November, with the water lines being hooked up as soon as the spring.

“The EPA is in the process of putting out a bid for local contractors,” Town Administrator Bill Innes said. “Sometime in the next four to six weeks, that should be wrapped up and ready to go.”

Wells affected contain at least a trace of 1,4 Dioxane, a compound which has been known to cause cancer. The contamination was discovered in 2011 when the water was being tested for other substances. The state Department of Environmental Services has provided bottled water to homes with well water containing 3 micrograms of Dioxane.

The homes affected are on Emery Drive, Belknap Drive and Brookside Terrace.

It’s been a tough year for affected residents, but they are glad a solution is in sight.

“This is a good thing,” said Dianne Cavanagh of 1 Emery Drive. “I think the town and the state have worked very hard to make this happen.”

In May, the EPA announced plans to spend $2 million to construct water lines to the homes. But it is still unclear just how many homes that will cover.

“We know it will be at least the majority of the homes which are affected,” Innes said. “But we don’t know how much exactly it will end up costing to complete the project.”

November is an option to get the work started, he said, but there may be an advantage to starting in the spring.

“If we start it in the spring, we may be able to get more done because there is no starting and stopping,” he said. “But they can’t do any work once there is snow on the ground.”

Innes said once the contracts are finalized, he will host a public meeting to inform residents of what will be happening.

“We were really hoping it would be done by now,” he said. “But it’s been hindered by the federal budget and by sequestration.”

While the whole process has been a nuisance, at least some residents are understanding of the process.

“We’re very pleased,” said Sally DiMaggio of 14 Emery Drive. “I think everyone would have liked to have gone a lot quicker than it has, but local officials and the EPA have been responsive. They’ve had neighborhood meetings and state officials have gotten involved. That’s just government. It’s slow.”