What’s in Your Water this Week?

May 27, 2016


Staff photo by Kaylee Murphy  Concerned Litchfield residents ask questions regarding the current future of the drinking water.

Staff photo by Kaylee Murphy Concerned Litchfield residents ask questions regarding the current future of the drinking water.

by Kaylee Murphy

Many concerned Litchfield residents went to the Public Water System Expansion Engineering Design Project at Campbell High School on Tuesday night.  Two separate presentations were given: one from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and the other from Pennichuck.

At the meeting Litchfield residents could set up appointments for Pennichuck to come to their houses.  Residents of Litchfield were also allowed to express their concerns and ask questions after each presentation.  It is important that Pennichuck be able to access residential properties in order for them to examine the property.  They need to know the location of septic systems, landscape features (such as a pool), and irrigation systems.  The average appointment time should take about an hour.

Pennichuck expressed that the safety of their employees and customers is a huge priority to them.  Pennichuck employees should only show up at a house for an appointment that was previously made.  The person arriving too look at a residential property should be wearing clothing that has the Pennichuck logo as well as wearing a badge with their information on it.  However, not everyone coming for at-home visits will be driving a vehicle with the Pennichuck logo on it due to the short time frame.  Some of them may be driving their own cars.

It’s going to take a total of eight to 12 weeks to complete the design project.  St. Gobain reached a deal with Pennichuck within a week and agreed to pay around $410,000 for the design plan.

Pennichuck will be most likely use copper supply lines to most of the Litchfield residents.  Pounds per square inch will be ranging from 40-80.

Residents were concerned about the added monthly bill, if it is decided that they will be switching from a private well to public water.  Currently in Litchfield, for the residents that do have Pennichuck water, it costs the average homeowner a little over $60 a month.  NHDES says it’s highly unlikely that St. Gobain will be covering that monthly bill for the residents.  However, residents can refuse to connect to public water and still use their well water.

Some people have been waiting as long as five weeks to get their well water test results back.  NHDES apologized for the lengthy wait.  They sent approximately 400 tests to ALS Global, but the company simply could not handle the capacity.  ALS Global is getting more machines to try to catch up, and some of the samples are being sent to other companies who can test for Perfluorooctanoic Acid.  Results are still trickling in, and they are working to try to get the test results quicker.

According to Town of Hudson Engineer Elvis Dhima, it’s too early to tell if the potential arrangement with St. Gobain and Pennichuck would affect Hudson.  Whether the water used by Pennichuck will flow to Litchfield via the Hudson water system has not been determined, according to Dhima.  There has been no formal proposal of how the water would get to Litchfield and probably won’t be any until the design phase is done.

Another important question that was asked is if it would be ok to separate the private well from the public water, but still use it for the pool or irrigation.  Since PFOA is really only dangerous if ingested and can’t be absorbed through the skin (unless you have open wounds on your body) or breathed in (unless you’re breathing it in at industrial levels and even then it’s not as dangerous as digesting it).  However, NHDES is not making any guarantees that will be possible.

At the meeting people felt as though NHDES was only giving them the Pennichuck option.  The three options are bottled water, point of entry, and Pennichuck.  Bottled water isn’t a practical permanent option.  Point of entry is basically each home would get a filtering system.  The problem with that is that it needs to be checked frequently and require maintenance.  A lot of homeowners in other places that have experienced a similar situation did not follow through with that and naturally problems arose.

The benefits with connecting with public water are that the property value of your house will go up, insurance cost will go down and homeowners will have safe drinking water.  NHDES has asked the  New Hampshire Association of Realtors to estimate how much the property value will go up with the transition from a private well to public water.

There are no mandatory regulations set by the federal government yet for the level of PFOA that is allowed in drinking water.  Currently there is only a health advisory, which is 70 parts per trillion.  The levels found in the southern New Hampshire private wells have ranged from zero to 16,000 ppt.  The problem with PFOAs is that there isn’t a lot known about them.  Although parts of Vermont and New York are also experiencing the same problem, they are only a few months ahead of what is occurring here.  In Vermont, since they have fewer houses to test for then Litchfield they have done retesting.  They tested a restaurant’s private well and found it had 20 ppt of PFOA.  Three weeks later they retested and that same private well had 200 ppt of PFOA.  In Litchfield one person’s house could be in the clear and yet their next door neighbor could have elevated levels of PFOA.  There have been no retests done in Litchfield because all the first tests haven’t been completed yet.

It is important that Litchfield residents set up appointments for Pennichuck to come out as quickly as possible.  If St. Gobain agrees to go with the design plan that Pennichuck makes NHDES hopes to have public water for the Litchfield homes by the end of the calendar year.

For more information or to set up an appointment go to www.pennichuck.com you can also visit NHDES website at des.nh.gov for the latest up-to-date information.