Turnpike Road well in Jaffrey closed due to contamination

  • Town of Jaffrey Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/22/2021 11:43:19 AM

A Jaffrey town well has been closed since April, after exceeding limits on a contaminant that causes serious health complications with long-term exposure.

The contaminant, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), when consumed over many years, can affect the liver, endocrine system and immune system, lead to increased cholesterol, increase the risk of certain types of cancer and lower a women’s chance of getting pregnant.

PFOS levels are considered safe for drinking water when they are below 15 nanograms per liter. The most-recent test of the well, conducted Aug. 9, showed current levels are well below that – 2.63 nanograms per liter – but the running average for the year was higher – 18 nanograms per liter.

The impacted well, one of two wells located on Turnpike Road, known as Well 1, has been turned off since April 20, which is when levels initially peaked, according to Town Manager Jon Frederick.

Frederick said at that point, the town was directed to increase testing on that well, but wasn’t immediately required to shut it off. But because the town has a second well in the proximity, and is able to meet demands with the other three wells in town, it did so anyway as a precaution.

“We took the step of shutting that one well down,” Frederick said.

The other well on Turnpike Road draws water from a separate source, and does not have the same level of PFOS.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PFOS is a manmade compound that doesn’t naturally occur in the environment, and is resistant to degradation processes, meaning it can linger in air, soil and water for a long time. It is used in carpet and clothing treatments and coatings for paper, cardboard packaging and leather, and in the manufacture of nonstick coatings for cookware, waterproof clothing, wire casings and seal tapes, among other uses. PFOS has been detected in surface water and sediment downstream of production facilities or treatment for wastewater, sewerage or landfills across the United States.

Since that initial test, contamination levels of PFOS in Well 1 have varied, sometimes over the limit and sometimes under, Frederick said.

Jaffrey has been working to address the issue, in hopes of eventually bringing the well back online. The town is working with New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and Tighe & Bond Engineers to find the source of the contamination and is assessing treatment options.

“The investigation is still going on, and our engineers are currently conducting tests to try to locate the source,” Frederick said.

But if the contamination source isn’t discovered, it could be several years before treatment is a viable option, and it would come with a heavy expense, Frederick said.

A system to filter the water for the Turnpike Road wells could cost upwards of $7 million, Frederick said. Currently, the town intends to continue testing the wells to determine whether this year’s high overall average is a fluke and not a chronic concern.

Jaffrey’s water access has been an ongoing concern for the town and was the driving force behind acquiring three new well sites on the Jaffrey and Sharon town line and partnering with Peterborough to purchase the wells and develop a new water treatment plant for them.

With Well 1 offline, perhaps for the foreseeable future, Frederick said the town still has enough water supply to meet demand, but it does put them on a tight margin.

“Right now, we’re fine and meeting demand, but if we had to shut off another well, our level of concern would rise significantly,” Frederick said. “But we’re monitoring this situation.”

If the town does have to build a treatment system for the Turnpike Road wells, it would not be completed before January of 2025. However, the town expects to bring the Cold Stone Springs wells online within the next two years, Frederick said, giving access to extra water supply in case of droughts or if other wells have to close due to monitoring issues.

In an advisory notice issued by the Town of Jaffrey, those who have concerns about increased health risks are advised to use alternative water for drinking and cooking and to contact their own health care professional with any specific health concerns. General health-related questions may be directed to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services through the Environmental Health Program at 603-271-6802.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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