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Brasher, Stockholm urged to conduct environmental review

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BRASHER FALLS — The state Department of Health is recommending that Brasher and Stockholm complete an environmental review as soon as possible as they try to form a municipal water district for Brasher Falls and Winthrop.

Brasher Town Supervisor M. James Dawson told town board members that he received a letter from Public Health Engineer Ronald E. Sheppard of the Health Department regarding a preliminary engineering study the two towns paid to have done by Burley-Guminiak and Associates, Canton, now known as Capital Consultants Architecture and Engineering.

“Now we’ve reached a point where we need to do an environmental study for this,” Mr. Dawson said. Mr. Sheppard “recommended an environmental review as soon as possible.”

He said he was concerned about the possibility of petroleum distillates in the soil.

“We have a lengthy history of petroleum spills in the hamlet,” he said. “I’m thinking about the history in Helena. When they were digging a water line, they hit some contaminated soils from oil fuel tanks that had been in the ground since yesteryear.”

If any petroleum distillates are found, those will have to be cleaned up at the owner’s expense, he said.

“Those people that own that property are responsible,” he told board members.

Mr. Dawson said he was also concerned about the location of gas lines to ensure they weren’t impacted when water lines were installed.

“We have to be careful where we put water,” he said.

Board member John M. Keenan, who serves as the town’s municipal water representative, recommended the towns proceed with the environmental review, which will cost each town approximately $1,500. Board members unanimously approved the motion.

The Stockholm town board also voted unanimously to spend $1,500 for the study.

Once that is complete, a public hearing will be held, and then a water district will have to be formed.

A 2011 survey indicated 45 percent of 189 residents who responded opposed formation of a public water district, while 38 percent supported it and 17 percent said they were undecided.

At the same time, however, a Department of Health sampling of private wells in the hamlets of Brasher Falls and Winthrop found that 11 of the 33 contained total coliform bacteria. Thirteen samples were collected from Winthrop and 20 from Brasher Falls.

Approximately two-thirds of residents also had high levels of hardness and/or iron in their water, approximately one-quarter had sulfur and several indicated they had drilled within the last 10 years or planned to drill a new well because of declining or insufficient yield.

A number of homeowners also indicated that their water supply was shared with at least one other home.

In order to form a district, approval by owners of 51 percent of the assessed value would be needed, Mr. Dawson said.

Mr. Dawson said homes with public water as opposed to wells would be more attractive for mortgage financing from a bank and would also have better fire protection with street hydrants.

Residents, he said, also will not have to worry about contamination, and “if the power goes out, you will have water.”

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