By Alex Lippa
---- — ATKINSON — Almost four dozen homeowners who have lived with contaminated water will get a tax break.
Selectmen voted Monday to give 47 homeowners in the Emery Drive neighborhood a 12 percent property tax abatement.
“A number of people have had their property values decrease,” Town Administrator Bill Innes said. “We weren’t required by law to do this, but we had a couple people request an abatement and we decided to apply it to all the affected homes.”
The homes were discovered to be contaminated with dioxane 1,4 in 2011 when the well water was being tested for other substances. Fifteen homes were found to be contaminated with more than 3 micrograms of dioxane and have had bottled water provided to them by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
Innes said the town’s professional assessor, Rodney Wood, created a formula involving the aggregate values of the homes affected and the cost it will take to repair. The Environmental Protection Agency has committed $2 million to construct a new water line to the affected homes.
The tax relief is welcome news to residents who have struggled over the last two years.
“We’re very pleased with it,” said Sally DiMaggio of 14 Emery Drive. “A lot of residents have been thinking about selling our homes and the impact that this has had would take a huge toll on us.”
DiMaggio said she has had to use bottled water to wash her hands and for cooking.
“It’s been an inconvenience for us for a long time now,” she said.
Jane Shields of 10 Belknap Drive appreciated the selectmen’s actions.
“At times, we kind of felt on our own on an island,” she said. “It’s nice to see the town saying we are in this together and we’ll take care of things for you.”
Selectman Todd Barbera said he was pleased to see things turning around for the affected residents.
“I think the abatement is fair, based upon what is going on with those properties,” he said. “I’m happier that the EPA is moving toward a fix so that everyone can carry on with their normal everyday life and not have to worry about water issues.”
DiMaggio said she was surprised to see that they would be getting the reduction.
“When it first happened, several neighbors said they wanted to apply for an abatement, but then we decided to hold off to see how long it would last,” she said. “I think we were all surprised when we learned we would be getting one.”
Innes said he has been talking with the EPA about connecting the pipes, but still does not know how many homes will be connected.
“We don’t know if it will be 30 or 50 homes which will be hooked up,” he said. “We still don’t know what the $2 million will cover.”
Innes said he expects the work to start in the fall, but he has not come up with a plan if all the houses aren’t covered by the EPA.
“We will have to look at what their plans are and then make a judgment after that,” Innes said.