HAMPSTEAD — It’s been nearly a year since the Anthony family and their neighbors on Main Street started struggling with water problems.
Last summer, about a month after moving to Hampstead, the fourth well on the Anthony’s property went dry.
They discovered neighbors had similar issues, and that knowledge set the family on a journey in the community. The Anthonys helped start the Hampstead Water Advocates, which mobilized residents who were concerned about preserving water resources in town. The advocates lobbied successfully for change, getting the town to enact ordinances to protect and preserve water resources.
Today, the Anthonys are still dealing with water problems. Though water returned to their well in December, it hasn’t been drinkable due to high levels of iron and manganese, according to Deanna Anthony.
“It smells bad, tastes terrible, and stains everything,” she said.
According to Anthony, a Department of Environmental Services water test on May 10 showed iron levels at 294 times over the recommended limit, manganese levels at 103 times over the limit, hardness levels at 6.8 times over recommended limit, and a pH level of 4.4 — far lower than the recommended 6.5 to 8.5.
The poor water quality comes from the well’s veins being empty for a long time, according to Anthony. Now that the water level is higher in the well, it is rinsing out all of the clogged dry veins, according to Anthony.
“We rely 100% on bottled water for drinking or cooking, but usually don’t cook here between the water and dishes,” Anthony said noting washing dishes is frustrating because they never fully get clean.
Anthony said she is very happy her pool is back open because that water is cleaner than the corrosive type in her house.
Showers turn the family’s skin itchy and dry.
“It’s a constant battle to keep sinks, toilets and showers clean,” Anthony said, noting the water causes brown stains.
She also can’t do laundry, because the water stains clothes brown.
“The biggest concerns are our property value and the permanent damage this poor water quality is doing to our entire plumbing system and our appliances,” Anthony said.
The family has already replaced two shower fixtures and a kitchen faucet in the last few months.
Water problems begin
Water at the home on 414 Main St. was running fine when the Anthonys moved in on May 23, 2018. Then, about mid-June, it became smelly and turned orange.
To reverse this, the Anthonys changed their filters and recharged the water softener but the water did not return to normal. A bad situation got worse on July 3 when water stopped flowing in the Anthony home during their morning routines.
“The last thing I thought was that we ran out of water,” Anthony remembered. At the time she was confused, and thought something may have broke in the utility room.
Soon after the water ran out, local well driller company Skillings & Sons diagnosed the problem. The Anthonys’ fourth well on property was dry.
According to Anthony, representatives from the company told her that it took three months in summer 2017 to find water on the property. The well drillers also said the likelihood of their newest well going dry so deep into the bedrock was unheard of.
Since the Anthonys have four wells on property, with the deepest extending to a depth of 1,500 feet, the company said drilling for water was not an option anymore.
A typical well is usually between 400-600 feet deep. Because the drilling company had already explored all four corners of the Anthony property, the $10,000 job with no guarantee was “a poor gamble for a lot of money,” according to Anthony.
“We were dumbfounded,” Anthony said of hearing the news. “We just felt desperate to get water lines because we thought that was the only other option.”
After Anthony began talking to her neighbors and discovered she was not alone, she voiced her concerns to the Board of Selectmen. According to Anthony, the selectmen were “receptive, and felt sorry, but said there wasn’t much they could do because it was a private property problem.”
Board of Selectmen Chair Chad Bennett, Selectman Joe Guthrie, and Selectman Sean Murphy did not return request for comment by press time.
In hopes to rally support for bringing the private Hampstead Area Water Company’s lines up to Main Street residences Anthony and her father Howie Steadman walked up and down Main Street with letters explaining their predicament asking neighbors who also have problems to contact her. Several neighbors did.
Since the Anthonys had no running water for about four weeks at this time, they were using bottled water to drink, pool water to flush toilets, and showered and did laundry in the pool or at their family’s houses.
“We regularly checked the well to see if it was recovering and it was not,” Anthony said.
During a meeting with the Board of Selectmen, the well drilling company and Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, Anthony said Skillings told the selectmen that the water beneath the Anthony’s home was “just gone.”
Morse said HAWC could apply to be a part of the state’s water sourcing project, but HAWC representative Josh Manning said between 100-150 homes need to connect to lines to make it worth the $1 million investment.
After forming the Hampstead Water Advocates with her father, Anthony and other Main Street residents applied for water lines through HAWC, but were unsuccessful.
“At this point we were stuck,” Anthony said. “We couldn’t drill, we couldn’t get water lines (and) we couldn’t move because our house was worth nothing. It was the most helpless and hopeless feeling.”
Beginning in July 2018, the Anthony family have depended on water donations and a 750 gallon water delivery every two weeks to meet their family’s needs.
Finding a solution
After water deliveries started, DES Water Well Program Manager Abby Fopiano began investigating the Main Street water problems.
With the installation of well monitors in her own well and neighbors’ wells to aid the DES in collecting data, Anthony and local engineer and hydrogeologist Leonard Sarapas began the water advocates’ own investigation into Main Street’s dwindling water supply.
The Anthonys noticed their well starting to recover on Dec. 15. At the time, the Anthonys didn’t know that the DES asked HAWC to cut down on the water they were drawing from a nearby well.
Reports from the water advocates and the DES released in April came to the conclusion that HAWC and its Kent Farm well caused the water issues for residents on Main Street.
Anthony said town officials and residents are now waiting to hear what will happen next.
The Kent Farm well that caused adverse affects is still operational, and draws about 70 gallons of water per minute, according to Anthony.
“Now that the root cause of our issues has been concluded and disclosed, we’re all figuring out what to do with it,” Anthony said.
HAWC General Manager Charlie Lanza did not respond for request for comment by press time.