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Water fund supports state cleanup efforts

Trust established in 2016 will ensure the provision of clean water to towns

By KEN LIEBESKIND - For The Telegraph | Feb 11, 2018

A cost of $276 million is a lot of money, but when it comes to providing clean drinking water for the state of New Hampshire it might not be enough.

The state is determining how to allocate the $276 million Drinking Water and Ground Water Trust Fund that is being financed by proceeds from the State’s lawsuit against the Exxon Mobil Corp. for its liability in the MtBE contamination of groundwater.

Clark Freise, assistant commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, who serves on the Trust Fund advisory commission, said $276 million “sounds like a lot of money, but drinking water projects come in millions and it’s very expensive to bring good quality water to people’s homes.”

The commission has approved a few applications for grants and loans and is setting up a subcommittee to determine how towns and water companies can apply for future financing.

One of the first approved grants is $600,000 for Pennichuck East Utility that will be used to finance construction of a service line across the Merrimack River that will provide clean water for Litchfield and towns east of the river that were beset by contamination from the Saint-Gobain plant in Merrimack. “Saint-Gobain paid for the extension but they needed to make the pipe bigger,” Freise said.

The Merrimack Village Water District Water, which is a separate entity from the town of Merrimack, runs the water system and would need to apply to the Trust Fund.

“There’s been no application from MVD yet, though there have been some initial discussions,” Freise noted.

The trust fund’s notification for more than $10 million in grants include $4.3 million for a water main replacement for the town of Whitefield and $1.15 million for a lead line replacement for the town of Colebrook.

While the commission has approved the first round of funding it must gain further approval before the funding is

distributed.

“The commission awards money and we have to go to the fiscal committee of the legislature and the governor and the executive council to get the projects approved,” Freise said.

“The governor supports it wholeheartedly,” Freise added, but each individual grant also has to be approved and he is unsure which grants will be approved first.

New Hampshire Senate president Chuck Morse, who sponsored the bill that established the Drinking Water and Ground Water Trust Fund in 2016, said the commission will meet to determine how towns and water systems can apply for funding and oversee a public comment period. “Then the committee will look at each project and have decisions by September or October so towns can fit it into their budget process,” he said.

Bill Boyd, a Merrimack town council and Drinking Water and Ground Water commission member, said the trust fund will be used to treat PFOA contamination and improve local water quality, but private well owners will not initially be able to apply for funding.

“They will not be part of the process, but it’s subject to change and the commission could open it up,” he said.

Private well owners in Merrimack and other towns with contaminated water who have not been connected to public water lines are still using bottled water.

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