Milford well search dries up

Latest site in lengthy hunt doesn’t pan out

MILFORD – After searching for years for a place to dig a new munici­pal well, water commis­sioners are running out of hope.

Test wells on the lat­est potential site, west of Osgood Pond, show there isn’t enough water to jus­tify a well, commission Chairman Robert Courage said last week.

Courage, a retired pub­lic works director, said he has looked at 15 possible sites over 38 years.

"We are just running out of possibilities," he said. "We are still look­ing, but it’s not too prom­ising."

The big areas with po­tential sources of water are in places contami­nated by volatile organic compounds, he said.

The large aquifers that run along the Souhegan River east from the Wil­ton line to the Oval area are contaminated, and the town’s two Superfund sites – Savage Well, west of the old police station, and Fletcher Paint, near Keyes Memorial Park – are in the midst of clean­up operations.

It will take decades, if ever, for their water to be drinkable.

Last year, representa­tives from the federal Environmental Protec­tion Agency and the state Department of Environ­mental Services told town officials that the Savage Well contamination was more extensive than origi­nally estimated. They said it could take hundreds of years before they could produce drinkable water.

Milford has two sources of water – its own three wells on Milford-ownedland in Amherst, and water from Pennichuck Water Works, which has been used as a backup supply since 1988, the year the Keyes Well at the Fletcher Paint site was shut down and five years after the Savage Well was shut down.

The town’s contract with Pennichuck, which lasts until 2021 and has an option to renew, al­lows it to take up to 2 mil­lion gallons a day. There were times this past sum­mer, because of the on­going drought and heavy demand, the town had to buy about 1 million gal­lons a day, Courage said.

Before looking at the Osgood Pond site, the commission’s hydrologist had examined farm land on North River Road. A well would have had a big impact on the farm’s operations, Courage said, and the town would have had to reimburse the farmer, so it wasn’t cost effective.

And because the area is downstream of the Sav­age Well, there are con­cerns that a well could pull in contaminants.

During a town Capi­tal Improvement Plan Committee presentation to selectmen last week, Courage said water com­missioners were with­drawing their request for money for well testing next year.

According to Milford Water Utilities Director Dave Boucher, the town pays a stand by charge of $81,000 a year to Penni­chuck to be connected to its system. There is also a charge of $2.07 per cubic feet of water (about 748 gallons).

Because of the drought, the town paid about $24,000 a month extra from June through Sep­tember year than it did in 2015.

If it had another well, Milford would be better able to negotiate those rates, Boucher said.

But "Pennichuck has been good to us," and its rates are reasonable, he said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.