Litchfield reaps benefits from PFOA resolution

Homes connected to municipal water line in wake of well contamination

LITCHFIELD – The town of Litchfield was the fastest to receive connections to municipal water after Saint-Gobain reported the presence of PFOAs in water near its Merrimack plant. Beginning in October 2016 and by August 2017, 363 Litchfield homes were connected to municipal water. After Saint-Gobain signed a consent decree on March 20, 27 additional homes are set for connections.

Pennichuck Water Works, the firm that provides water for Litchfield, oversees the design and construction of water lines at Litchfield homes and is working closely with Saint-Gobain on their installation.

“Litchfield is a franchise area for Pennichuck, and the extension of public water falls under our ownership,” said company CEO Larry Goodhue. “Saint-Gobain paid for the extension of public water to many residents that were impacted by the PFOA contamination, they contracted us to do an engineering study to extend water to nearly 400 residents, authorized us to put designs out to contractors and approved the project going forward.”

While work has been completed on the initial 363 homes, water connections for the 27 homes approved via the consent decree haven’t been started yet.

“We have to complete the design and bid package for contractors who will take on that business, and then Saint-Gobain must approve the bids,” Goodhue said. “We’re working on Bedford now, so the work on Litchfield will begin within the next couple of months.”

Goodhue said eight contractors were involved in the initial water connections in Litchfield.

“Three did water main installations and five installed service lines, but we may use new contractors for homes after the consent decree, because we must follow the bid process,” he said.

Litchfield’s town leaders are satisfied with the work that has been done thus far.

“Overall, it was a very positive experience with all parties involved,” said chairman of the Board of Selectmen Brent Lemire. “The operation was well done with minimal problems.”

Troy Brown, town administrator, said, “90 percent of the work was completed in regard to water contamination prior to the signing of the consent decree. Everything has gone well.”

More homes in Litchfield were connected to municipal water than Merrimack and Bedford prior to the signing of the consent decree, because the Department of Environmental Services identified the homes with water contamination above the 70 parts per trillion standard.

“Most of Merrimack is on MVD public water, while most of Litchfield homes are on private wells,” said Jim Martin, a DES spokesman. “We started our investigation in a circle from the Saint-Gobain facility to identify private wells after making sure public water was below the 70 ppt standard.”

Most of the Litchfield residents agreed to municipal connections, while some residents with private wells declined.

“Some are not happy to pay for a water bill,” Lemire said.

Dina Pokedoff, a Saint-Gobain spokesperson said, “40 properties were offered connections, but refused.”

In addition to paying for the water connections, Saint-Gobain paid for road repairs that were required after construction to install the water lines was done.

“Roads were ground up and trenching was performed, about 20 roads were repaired,” Brown said. “It was painful, no one wants to go through construction in their neighborhoods, but so far the roads haven’t shown any signs of cracking or sink holes.”

“Prior to signing the consent decree, Saint-Gobain took steps to bring potable water to Litchfield,” Pokedoff said. “We provided water service to 360 properties, eight undeveloped properties received curb stops, approximately 10 miles of water main and 11 miles of service lines were installed. Per the consent decree, we will also fund the construction of municipal water line extensions to 27 additional properties in Litchfield. Water line extensions to properties where design plans need to be completed will be done as soon as possible, but no later than November 2019.”