Residents vote to take action against water pollution at Leverett Town Meeting 

  • The Sawmill River in North Leverett is a peacefull fall scene. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 4/29/2019 12:02:55 AM

LEVERETT — Along with passing the town’s budget, increasing funding for the school department and funding additional equipment and personnel for the town’s public safety departments, residents addressed a long-standing issue for five homes with contaminated drinking water at Saturday’s annual Town Meeting. 

A three-part article gave town officials the ability to pursue different paths in addressing an issue that has affected residents for nearly 20 years near a capped landfill off Cushman Road near the Amherst line. A plume of contaminants has forced town to install filters on water tanks and supply residents with bottled water for drinking and cooking since the 1990s. 

Virginia Goodale, of Teawaddle Hill Road, said she moved to town 11 years ago and has seen the water quality deteriorate significantly in that time. She said high levels of metals and contaminants in the water have created a situation that is “untenable” and “scary” for her family. 

Options now available to town officials include building a water line to supply homes located on both Cushman and Teawaddle Hill roads and to receive clean municipal water from Amherst, a project estimated to cost $2.3 million; building wells and water lines beneath the contaminated aquifer currently used and tap into a clean source of water, estimated to cost the town $150,000 to complete; and purchasing the homes as they come up for sale at market value so residents do not lose the equity they have built, which would cost $20,000 to come up with a fair market value on each home. 

Chairman of the Select Board, Peter d’Errico, said town officials would pursue the least expensive option as more information becomes available. He said the preferred route would be to build private wells for each of the homes. 

David Foss, a hydrogeologist consultant for the town, described the process for building private wells as a “step-by-step” approach. One would be built, and if proven free of contaminants, subsequent wells would be built for the other four homes. If the first failed, then only $15,000 would be spent to build the one well, and the town could pursue the option of drawing clean water from Amherst instead. 

A group in town, called CLEAN!, or Citizens for Landfill Environmental Action Now!, brought the three-pronged petition article to the Town Meeting. The article passed unanimously after over half an hour of discussion with the nearly 150 residents present. 

Residents unanimously voted for the 2020 town budget of $6.2 million, which is a 1.7 increase from 2019. Residents also voted for an appropriation of $33,126 for the Leverett Elementary School, in addition to the $4 million in the town’s budget, which will help pay for unfunded mandates from the state, contractual salary increases and the loss of state reimbursements, according to School Committee Chairwoman Bethany Seeger. 

The Police Department will receive funding to hire a third full-time police officer after residents voted for a $33,093 appropriation in Article 8. Residents who spoke in favor of a third full-time officer said the additional officer would be more committed to the community than a part-time officer. Those who spoke against the appropriation questioned whether a small town needed another full-time officer. 

The town will create a new Revenue Committee that will explore any opportunities for additional sources of revenue after residents voted in favor of Article 25. The committee will be made up of five members, and it will report to the Select Board to recommend ideas, not implement them.

A lengthy discussion arose on the issue of Dudleyville Road’s impassibility this past spring as the muddy road has made it difficult for residents to get to their homes and for first responders to traverse. Article 41 passed, after several attempts to amend the language, and it will fund a $15,000 study of Dudleyville Road by a certified engineer. The data gathered will be used to seek out funding opportunities to improve the road and other dirt roads in Leverett. 

All three proposed resolutions on the 44 Article warrant passed: calling for support and compassion towards refugees; calling on the United States to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; and calling for support to changing the state flag and seal. 

Larry Farber served as town moderator. Several town official positions were filled: Sam Black was elected to town assessor; Michael Fair to the Board of Health; Rom Masterton to constable; Steve Nagy, Phil Carter and Jed Prujanski to the Finance Committee; Georgie Schmid and Elaine Barker as library trustees; Van Stoddard to the Planning Board; Tara Acker, Gene Stamell and Kip Forsh to the School Committee; Peter d’Errico to the Select Board; and Lisa Stratford to city clerk. 

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com.


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