Stafford Township Installing Water Mains in Small Section of Town After Wells Test High for Mercury

Jul 05, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Water mains being installed along Newell Avenue in Stafford Township.

After several residential water wells tested positive for elevated levels of mercury, Stafford Township started work on June 24 to install water mains in a four-street section east of Route 9 and south of Route 72. Once complete, 26 residences will be able to connect to the city water lines.

“A resident who is putting his house up for sale initially tested the well and it was found to have an elevated level of mercury,” said Township Administrator James Moran, who, once notified, immediately had that well and others along the north side of Newell Avenue tested. “We had to find out if these were isolated incidents or whether they affected the entire street. Three wells we tested came back with higher levels of mercury – not significantly high, but enough – and three wells did not. The test results came back on June 19, and at about 9 p.m. that night I notified those residents of the results.”

Moran immediately set out to notify residents in the immediate vicinity, including those on Ridgeway, Pfeiffer and Dixey avenues, via a reverse-911 call. An alert was posted to the township website on June 21 that states, “Residents should refrain from drinking or cooking with well water and bathing should be restricted to showers.” Moran also contacted officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection as well as the county health department so the agencies could advise on potential investigations as to a possible source of the excess mercury in the groundwater.

“The DEP’s opinion is that it may be natural, that it’s not uncommon to find mercury in well water,” Moran said. “The health department is going to investigate, but right now there’s no way to know where it may have come from. We’ll let them do their work and just wait to see what they come back with. When they find out what that is, they will make their determination known to me and everybody else.”

In the meantime, Moran and Mayor John Spodofora wasted little time in making sure the town did its part in providing access to city water. The day after receiving the test results, Moran consulted with town officials and ordered the piping to install water mains. When the piping arrived on Friday, June 23, crews began installation the next day.

“Our priority is to get the residents in that area access to clean water as fast as possible,” Spodofora said. “There’s no rhyme or reason for the higher levels of mercury, but our big thing is to make sure everything is fixed so the residents can hook up to city water and be safe with their water usage.”

The initial cost of the project – which includes installing the water mains to the aforementioned streets and 26 connections – is just over $400,000, Moran said. He said the crews were making rapid progress as of late last week, and he is hopeful the entire project will not take more than eight weeks to complete.

“We now have the equipment to do these projects ourselves, rather than contract them out,” said Moran, who noted several recent equipment purchases the town made as the biggest factor in being able to move so quickly to rectify the situation. “We want to be proactive in protecting our citizens, and because we have the capability to do the project, we believed it was best to go ahead and just get it done.”

Once the water mains and connections are installed, residents on those streets are required to hook up to the city water system, which costs $3,600 per home, Moran said. Upon completion of each connection, residents have up to 90 days to connect, and residents have the option to pay in full immediately or make an initial down payment based on a sliding scale and then make payments through their water bills for five years. After the project is completed, the affected roads will be repaved by sometime in the fall, Moran said.

— David Biggy

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