EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 18, 2013

EPA may not fix Atkinson water problems

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — ATKINSON — Residents with contaminated water were optimistic a solution was on the horizon.

But now that seems unlikely.

Town Administrator Bill Innes said yesterday he is concerned the federal Environmental Protection Agency won’t move forward with plans to provide water to the 50 homes with contaminants in their well water.

“The EPA was comfortable that they would be able to solve the problem for us,” Innes said. “The plans have been created and the site work is all done. We thought we would have this done in the spring.”

Innes said he believed the EPA was close to approving the $3 million project earlier this year to connect water from the Hampstead Area Water Company. But after the fiscal cliff and the sequestration, the project has been put on hold.

“The EPA as a whole is trying to determine what the proper action level for this contaminant should be,” said John McKeown, the EPA’s on-scene coordinator for the project. “We are taking a step back and assessing the universes of these types of sites.”

McKeown said there have been many instances of Dioxane 1,4, found throughout the country. With a limited budget, the organization cannot get to all the sites as quickly as it would like to.

“Now, we are trying to come up with a plan to take care of it,” McKeown said. “We have invested a lot of money in this already.”

The uncertainty frustrates residents, including Maureen Peck of Emery Drive. Peck has used bottled water for the past year.

“It’s getting really old now,” Peck said. “It’s not very easy to try and live on bottled water. This is something that needs to get taken care of as soon as possible.”

Innes has been in regular contact with the EPA, but is unhappy with the pace the project has been going at.

“It’s tremendously disappointing,” he said. “They haven’t been able to commit to the project and now I think they’re thinking about backing out of the project altogether.”

But McKeown said that was not the case.

“We are trying to get this done,” McKeown said. “There has been a bit of a hurdle, but we hope to get past this.”

Innes isn’t as confident. He’s already starting to dread contingency plans if the EPA doesn’t approve the project.

“We’re trying to figure out the next step if the EPA reneges on the project,” he said. “If they do, we will have to sit down and regroup and figure out where to go next.”