Amherst, Leverett strike accord to extend water line to homes hurt by landfill

  • Paul Bockelman.

Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2020 6:52:16 PM

AMHERST — A mile-long extension of a water line at a cost of up to $2.5 million, which would primarily serve five homes in Leverett whose wells have been contaminated by a plume from a capped landfill, is moving forward.

The Amherst Town Council approved a memorandum of understanding Monday between Town Manager Paul Bockelman and the Leverett Select Board to get the project underway, with all costs to be covered by Leverett through a municipal appropriation, grants or other funding sources.

Leverett voters authorized the borrowing for the project at Annual Town Meeting in 2019 as one of the options for addressing the wells on Cushman Road and Teawaddle Hill Road that have detectable volatile organic compounds and other contaminants, primarily iron and manganese.

Leverett Select Board member Peter d’Errico praised Bockelman and Department of Public Works Superintendent Guilford Mooring for partnering on the project, which would solve a problem that has existed since the landfill was capped in 1996.

Mooring said the work, estimated to cost between $2.3 million and $2.5 million, based on a study done by Tata & Howard engineers of Marlborough, could begin within a year. The bulk of the cost, $1.6 to $1.8 million, is related to construction of the 12-inch water main, with another $495,000 for paving both East Leverett Road in Amherst and Cushman Road in Leverett.

The connection is one of three solutions for the contamination problem, the others being taking the homes by eminent domain or constructing a small municipal water system just for those homes. The landfill closed in 1993, after 43 years of collecting garbage from residents, but remains the site of the town’s transfer station.

Three of the five houses have town-supplied filtration systems for their private well water to remove most contaminants at the kitchen tap. Two houses are supplied bottled water because testing shows levels of manganese above acceptable drinking limits. One house has a well drilled outside the plume in 2010 by the town.

Though of limited benefit to Amherst, the water line would mean adding fire hydrants in that section of town and giving several homeowners with wells the option to tie into town water.

Mooring said the Leverett residents will be charged the same rates and connection fees as all users. It is not unusual for Amherst’s system to have customers who live outside town, Mooring added, observing that there are existing connections in both Belchertown and Pelham.

The water line currently stops at 66 East Leverett Road. Mooring said he doesn’t anticipate that this will encourage more residential development, estimating that at most 12 new lots could be developed on the stretch of road. East Leverett Road is challenging to develop, with lots on the west side having steep slopes, and lots on the east side bordered by the Cushman Brook. In addition, several parcels are permanently protected as open space.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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