Merrimack Town Councilor Calls Water District's Communication "Inept"

Jun 24, 2016

Credit NHPR

Take a look at the Merrimack, NH Water Issue Facebook page and you’ll see that people on the town's public water are not happy. Dozens call the water commissioners “unprepared,” say they are “protecting the culprit,” and need to “step up.”  

Unlike other towns in New Hampshire, in Merrimack, the public water system (Merrimack Village District, or MVD) is independent from town governance, overseen by its own elected board of commissioners.  

“I know that the MVD has been working hard,” Merrimack town council chair Nancy Harrington told commissioners at a Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this week. “Your problem is, you’re not communicating it, people don’t know it.”

At a town’s council meeting on Thursday, councilor Bill Boyd put it more strongly. He told the commissioners, who had agreed to present an update at the meeting, “the communication has been inept.” Water customers were going to Facebook for their information, where some information, Boyd said, was incorrect.

“You should be using your website,” he said, “to be talking about what you’re doing on a daily basis.”

During the council meeting, MVD chairman Lon Woods assured councilors that public drinking water is well below the federal advisory level and state standard of 70 parts per trillion of both PFOA and PFOS, combined. In fact, the wells that are still online have recently tested as low as 13 ppt. But, Harrington warned, compliance with the state standard of 70ppt will not be enough to keep residents happy. “Is it realistic to expect that MVD should be able to acquire a zero points-per-trillion of PFOA/PFOS combined?” she asked.

Woods responded that just because the district is in compliance, with levels below 70 ppt, “that does not mean we have folded up the tent and gone away and are not looking for solutions.”  Rather, Woods suggested the commission was looking into the possibility of filtering all six of the town’s wells, including those with low levels of the contaminant. He called those considerations "preliminary." 

Earlier Thursday evening, councilors received an update from the town’s contract tax assessor, Loren Martin. She said sales and home values in Merrimack have not been affected by the water contamination. In most cases, she said, houses spend fewer than 14 days on the market.

“We will continue to monitor it,” she told councilors, “and if there is a quantifiable issue because of the water, we will react to that.”

Martin also warned tax payers not to assume that a higher assessment value will mean a higher tax burden. When values go up, she said, the tax rate – which has not yet been set -- will often go down.