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Voters to address water pollution

  • 5-gallon jugs of water lined up in a Leverett home. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/19/2019 11:39:19 AM

LEVERETT — For residents who live in five homes next to the capped landfill off Cushman Road near the Amherst line, a plume of contaminants has forced the town to install filters on their water tanks and supply them with bottled water for drinking and cooking over the past 20 years.

To resolve the long-standing issue, a group called CLEAN!, or Citizens for Landfill Environmental Action Now!, is bringing forward a three-pronged petition article to the April 27 annual Town Meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. at Leverett Elementary School.

The most expensive option, extending municipal water lines from Amherst into Leverett, could cost as much as $2.3 million.

Patricia Duffy, a Cushman Road resident affected by the water issues, said homeowners have endured the situation since the landfill began to generate leachate and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection required the monitoring of the well water and installation of filter systems.

“Since then conditions have deteriorated requiring bottled water for many of the residences,” Duffy said.

Duffy said that the press for action by voters this year comes more than a decade after Town Meeting in 2007 passed a resolution saying people in town should not be drinking bottled water. That resolution states that “citizens of Leverett be encouraged to avoid the purchase or use of bottled water and to consume tap water only.”

And she describes the matter as one of environmental justice. “We can’t kick the can down the road any more,” Duffy said.

In the article coming before residents, the first option would be to build a water line to supply the homes, located on both Cushman and Teawaddle Hill roads, with clean municipal water from Amherst.

This has been explored in the past and the town was awarded a state MassWorks grant to pay for a study.

A two-thirds majority would have to agree to the $2.3 million in spending for this to move forward.

A second option in the article is to find suitable water sources near the homes and build wells and water lines in Leverett, essentially operating as a small-scale water department for the homes. A hydrogeologist already has been doing work on this option. The article estimates the project would cost $150,000 and would also need a two-thirds majority to pass.

Select Board Chairman Peter d’Errico said updated cost projections for these projects will be presented and explained on the floor of Town Meeting.

The third option is to purchase the homes as they come up for sale at fair market value, so the residents will not lose the equity they have built over the years, and the challenges in selling homes with compromised wells. This option requires Town Meeting to spend $20,000 to come up with a fair market value on each home in advance of the homes being taken by eminent domain, which will bring an even higher cost.

The quarterly testing of untreated domestic well water, required as a result of the landfill closure in the 1990s, indicates high levels of iron and manganese in the water and the presence of dioxane, a carcinogen known to cause cancer.

Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said that Amherst is aware that Leverett is exploring the possibility of connecting homes to Amherst water.

“As long as it doesn’t cost us anything we’re willing to extend the line and accept new customers,” Bockelman said.

Amherst already has some out-of-town customers, including a handful of Belchertown residents.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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