September 21, 2018
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Well contamination forces town to consider municipal water mandate

Deb Cram | Seacoast Online
Deb Cram | Seacoast Online
South Berwick Town Council Chairman Jack Kareckas, with town councilor Russ Abell, left, are seen in this Seacoast Online file photo.
By Mark Pechenik, Seacoast Online

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — The Town Council discussed water contamination at its meeting Tuesday.

Chairman Jack Kareckas said carbon tetrachloride was discovered in a well recently dug by a Hooper Sands Road homeowner. Tests found the water contains 12 parts per billion of tetrachloride, a known carcinogen, above the federal standard of 5 ppb. The council was informed of the well’s contents on Monday.

The same contamination issue plagued the Hooper Sands area in the late 1990s, according to Kareckas. “For a couple of years, people in the area had to drink bottled water,” he said.

Councilor Mallory Cook asked if contamination may be more widespread “than it was before.”

“It is a possibility,” Councilor Russell Abell said.

[Water district took well offline after discovering contaminants, superintendent says]

If this is the case, Kareckas asked the council to consider establishing a groundwater protection zone. Such an ordinance would require residents to use water supplied by the town’s Water Department. In addition, any building permits issued for the Hooper Sands area would require the installation of town water.

Abell urged research be conducted on who is responsible for dealing with the contamination issue.

“Environmental regulations from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection” may take precedence over town ordinances, he said. “I wouldn’t want the town to take on liability if, for example, someone feels their property is devalued because of this issue.”

Councilor John James agreed. “I’d rather let organizations that own this matter, own it,” he said.

Town Manager Perry Ellsworth said “testing of other (water) wells in the vicinity” will be undertaken by the town. Ellsworth will also reach out to DEP to determine next steps on dealing with the contamination.

For more coverage of the South Berwick Town Council, visit seacoastonline.com.

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