Edgartown homeowners want nitrates addressed
Three years ago, testing of wells in the Edgartown Meadows subdivision revealed high levels of nitrates in the water. The source remains a mystery, but this week homeowners pressed town officials to help solve the problem by extending the town water supply.
On Monday, Edgartown Selectmen met with approximately 15 homeowners in the subdivision. The homeowners expressed impatience with the Edgartown Water Commission and said that despite a vote at the April annual town meeting authorizing the extension of town water pipes to the subdivision, work has yet to start.
Speaking for his fellow homeowners, Edgartown Meadows Association president Warren Gosson told selectmen that the problem needed to be rectified and should not be taking as long as it has to correct.
"This is not just something we want," said Bill LeRoyer, an Edgartown Meadows resident. "It's a public health hazard. We have the grants, and we have the money."
Although there was no resolution of the problem, selectmen listened to the homeowners and agreed to send a letter to the water commission stressing their obligation to bring water to all of Edgartown Meadows.
Since high levels of nitrates were found in several of the homes in Edgartown Meadows in September of 2003, Edgartown Meadows residents and the Edgartown Water Commission have been working to address the problem, although its cause remains unknown.
The high nitrate level was discovered when a resident on Edgartown Meadows road prepared to sell a house and discovered high nitrate levels while testing the water. Edgartown health agent Matt Poole became involved and started testing in the neighborhood.
At that time seven of the 70 Edgartown Meadows properties had nitrates exceeding the maximum level of 10 mg/L (milligrams per liter). Some of the homes had nitrate levels exceeding 20 mg/L.
At the 2006 annual town meeting, voters approved two articles that targeted the problem. One allowed the town water department to extend the town's water pipes to the subdivision, and the second allowed the board of water commissioners to levy a special assessment on property owners receiving the water to help pay for the costs.
But residents complain that since the meeting there has been virtually no headway made toward bringing in water. Mr. Gosson said that while the water department appears to be dragging its feet, both Mr. Poole and town administrator Pam Dolby have been very helpful in trying to rectify the problem.
According to Mr. Gosson, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has earmarked $840,000 in its fiscal year 2007 budget, which begins on October 1, 2006, to help pay for the costs of bringing water into Edgartown Meadows.
Edgartown Water superintendent Fred Domont explained yesterday morning that it can take up to six months from the beginning of the fiscal year for the USDA to give final approval for loans. "In order for us to put the project out for bid and to hire a contractor, or even if we do it ourselves, we have to have the funds available," he said. "The USDA would probably give us approval in January, February, or March. That's when legally, we would have the funding available to us, so that's when we would put the project out for bid."
On Tuesday, the Edgartown Water commission cancelled its monthly meeting with water department staff because two of the commissioners were unable to attend. The meeting has been rescheduled for August 16, but Mr. Gosson said it is strictly an operations meeting and there will be no opportunity for public input.