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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wallingford residents with polluted wells may get town water soon

As published in the Record Journal Tuesday June 18, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

WALLINGFORD - The State Bond Commission is expected to approve a $225,000 grant for the town on Friday, said state Rep. Mary Fritz. The money will pay for extending public water to five houses in a South Broad Street neighborhood.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection tested residents’ wells between 1171 and 1179 S. Broad St. in December 2011 and found dangerous levels of trichloroethylene in five of them. Commonly used as an industrial solvent, the chemical can damage the central nervous system when inhaled. The agency installed filters on the wells to clean the water of contaminants, and residents have been working to get access to the town water supply.

“I knew how serious it was,” Fritz, D-Wallingford, said of the contamination issue.

For the past few months, Fritz said, she has stayed in contact with residents in the area, assuring them that she would try her best to secure funding. Harold Lincoln, of 1175 S. Broad St., and Nicholas Sherwood, of 1179 S. Broad St.,have been the most outspoken of the residents with contaminated wells. Both have said they would like the source of the contamination to be investigated. But DEEP officials have said there are too many potential sources to warrant further investigation.

“This whole area was once all silver businesses, and that’s what you have,” Fritz said of water and soil contamination in the neighborhood.

Lincoln and Sherwood, who could not be reached for comment on Monday, have said they’d like a connection to the public water supply. But “getting town water will only solve part of the issues at hand,” Sherwood said via email in early May. “I still won’t know if our soil is polluted. And our home values are still going to suffer from all of these issues, whether they are fixed or not.”

It was Sherwood’s explanation of his family’s situation, expressed through emails, that Fritz said kept her committed to helping residents in the neighborhood.

Fritz said she invited several town officials to the Bond Commission meeting, to be held Friday at 10:30 a.m. in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Fritz said that once an item is put on the commission’s agenda, there is little doubt it will be approved. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. could not be reached for comment on Monday.

But Roger Dann, general manager of the town’s Water Division, said Monday, “This is not a done deal by any stretch.”

Of the $225,000, Dann said,“We would need to see what strings, if any, come attached to that” before proceeding with construction plans.

The closest water main is in the condominium complex behind the houses, Dann said.

Fritz said the grant amount comes from an estimate put together by the town and is intended to cover the total cost of construction. The entire project can be performed by the DEEP, Fritz said, adding that she is working to make sure a crew will come to Wallingford once the funding is approved on Friday.

“I think they should be happy,” Town Councilor Craig Fishbein said of the residents who may now be hooked into town water if the grant money is approved.

“I guess it’s not surprising what priorities government chooses to use our tax dollars for,” Fishbein said.

“I am so thrilled,” Town Councilor Nick Economopoulos said when informed of the potential funding on Monday. Economopoulos and Town Councilor Jason Zandri have both advocated for families in the South Broad Street neighborhood.

“Obviously I’m thrilled that (Fritz) has been able to get those funds for the families,” Zandri said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

“I think (Fritz) did an outstanding job,” said Town Councilor John Sullivan. “She stuck with it even though sometimes residents displayed concern.”

“It’s always hard getting money, especially in these times,” said Fritz.