EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 22, 2013

EPA to hook up 18 Atkinson homes to water line

Another 29 homes left to foot own bill

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — ATKINSON — For more than a year, 47 homes have had traces of dangerous contaminants in their wells. On Thursday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced the problems would be coming to an end for some of those households.

Eighteen houses on Emery Drive, Belknap Drive and Brookside Terrace will be hooked up to a new water line, on the government’s tab. Wells at those houses all contain at least three parts per billion of 1,4 Dioxane, a chemical which could cause cancer.

Homes with wells that have Dioxane levels below that standard will not be included in the federal program.

“Those are the only houses which meet the standard the state had developed,” said John McKeown, the EPA’s on-scene coordinator for the program.

For the other 29 households, any hopes of having the government hook them up to the water lines have dried up.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Abol Tehrani, of 19 Emery Drive. “They should give everyone a chance to be included.

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 EPA announced it would spend $2 million on the project. Town Administrator Bill Innes said there was always the possibility not all the homes would be provided with a new water supply.

“They did the best they could with what they were working with,” he said. “They worked through the government shutdown, budget constraints and sequestration. They were always very open with us throughout the process.”

But some residents remain frustrated.

“It would only take a million more dollars to get everyone else hooked up,” said Marc Jordan, of 13 Belknap Drive. “That’s not a lot to this country. To get fresh water to U.S. citizens should be a top priority.”

Widman said he had put his house on the market two weeks before dioxane was discovered in his well.

“My house is unsellable,” he said. “The banks just won’t finance it.”

Jordan, Tehrani and others do have another option. The EPA will give them the opportunity to hook their homes to the water line — at their own expense.

“I don’t have a choice,” Jordan said. “If I want to sell the house, I have to do that.”

John Widman of 8 Emery Drive suggested the rest of the affected homeowners team up to get a better price.

“There should be a vehicle so we all don’t have to go through separate contractors,” Widman said. “Perhaps we could get a better group rate.”

In June, selectmen voted to give the 47 homeowners a 12 percent property tax abatement. But Jordan would like to see more.

“We suggested that the town give us a onetime tax break on the cost of the hookup,” he said. “But that request was never really answered.”

The water will be provided by Hampstead Area Water Company. McKeown said work will begin early next month and should be completed in the spring.

“It usually takes about four to six months to complete,” McKeown said. “But we pretty much have to halt all work once the ground freezes.”