Londonderry to study drinking water and wastewater options

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LONDONDERRY — An effort to study how properties in town obtain drinking water and dispose of wastewater — and to develop potential solutions to identified needs — is now underway.

Christina Haskins, vice president of Dufresne Group, the consultancy hired by the town to conduct the study, provided an overview of the project at a public meeting Jan. 27.

The town's Planning Commission sought to initiate the study to explore the extent to which wastewater-disposal issues may constrain the town's economic development, commission member Richard Dale said in a recent interview.

The first phase of the study will include consulting town and state records, surveying property owners and testing water quality on properties whose owners grant permission, Haskins said at the Jan. 27 meeting.

The consultant will summarize the compiled data at a second public hearing in late March or early April. At a third meeting in the fall, community members will have the opportunity to comment on a draft report before it is finalized.

The $32,000 project is funded by a grant awarded by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. Town Manager Shane O'Keefe said those funds will need to be paid back if the town opts to move forward with any construction projects tied to the consultancy's eventual recommendations.

The study area encompasses about 200 total properties in Londonderry, Haskins said. If the consultancy — after compiling data and projecting the volume of wastewater flows — finds that there exists a need to develop communal water or wastewater systems in town, the firm will compile construction alternatives, along with cost estimates and potential funding avenues, in its report.

A property's lack of wastewater-disposal capacity can inhibit the growth or expansion of a business located at the site, Haskins said. It might also depress the property's value.

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Some banks may not lend to business owners or homeowners because of septic-related issues, O'Keefe said in a recent interview.

"We really hope that people within the study area and area businesses are plugged into the process, so that we can hear from them and they can hear from us," O'Keefe said.

In September, the Londonderry Select Board deemed Dufresne Group the most qualified of four firms that responded to a request for qualifications issued by the town in June. The board approved a contract with the consultancy in December, according to meeting minutes.

Monitoring of the West River by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the Southeastern Vermont Watershed Alliance has found elevated bacteria levels in a South Londonderry section of the river, according to Dufresne Group's proposal, which states that the causes of this contamination, though unknown, may be related to "nearby farms and on-site septic systems, as well as geography as the river is wider and slower in this reach."

The "study may not be able to point to specific source" of the contamination, the proposal notes.

Londonderry "is one of several towns in Windham County contemplating the need for a community water and/or wastewater system," according to the proposal. Dufresne Group completed a study of the town of Jamaica's water supply in 2018, and the town of Marlboro more recently hired the firm for a wastewater study.

Dufresne Group has provided engineering services to the town of Manchester's sewer department since 1999, assisting with sewer-main construction and other projects, according to the proposal.

Maps of the Londonderry study areas are available on the town's website, londonderryvt.org.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.


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