Water District Searches for Operator Replacement

by Cheryl Luther Michaels, Community Journalist

EAST HARDWICK – With the passing of Ed Keene, East Hardwick water district’s licensed operator, the monthly meeting of the East Hardwick Fire District (EHFD#1) the entity responsible for the village water system, was going to be difficult.  Seven members of the community attended the June 14 meeting to support the remaining two members of the board of trustees.

  
Chairperson Doug Casavant presented an unexpected report from the Vermont Sanitary Survey conducted last month. The report indicated that there are roots growing between the tiles of all four springs, a possible source of bacterial contamination. The inspector recommended resealing the tiles and referenced inadequate box construction. Until the work on the springs can be completed, the inspector mandated continuous chlorination.

Casavant said these improvements would be a large project that could endanger the viability of the springs. Additional discussion and engineering evaluation would be needed. Regarding the chlorination mandate, he said that is “easier said than done”, since the chlorination pump that would dispense measured amounts of chlorine on a regular basis requires electricity. The site does not currently have electric service and right-of-way issues would need to be addressed before any action could be taken. Several ideas were proposed, including solar power, putting the lines underground, and purchasing a right of way from abutting land owners. Casavant agreed to have further conversations with the state’s sanitary engineer and with Vermont Rural Water to get more information and to ask for an extension on the chlorination requirements.

It was also mentioned that a daily test for chlorine residual would need to be added. Currently the water is chlorinated once per month using a “dissolving tablet” method; this process is not acceptable for the mandated continuous chlorination.

The taste of chlorinated water and the safety of watering plants with it was discussed. According to online sources published by the CDC and EPA,  chlorinated water that sits for 24 hours is safe for watering plants and homeowners can reduce the taste of chlorine by filtering.  Casavant noted that ultraviolet light is an alternative to chlorination, and would be investigated.

Also in this meeting, Giovanna Zaccaria announced that she will be resigning from the secretary/bookkeeper position due to new responsibilities in her job, and Casavant announced that he will be resigning from the Prudential Committee, the board or administrative body of the fire district, as of the district’s annual meeting in August. Casavant said his decision was based on a desire to travel more, perhaps becoming a snowbird, and that without Keene the responsibility for the safety of the system falls solely on his shoulders, a responsibility that, especially with this new report, weighs very heavily on him.

Casavant offered to be available to assist new board members and Zaccaria offered to continue until a new person can be found. Discussions at previous meetings about increasing the size of the board to five members are still outstanding with no decisions made as yet. Either way, the board will be seeking two or four volunteer members and a new secretary and bookkeeper this summer. According to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s guidance documents for fire and water districts, if the district is not able to fill the board positions, the town’s select board can appoint Prudential Committee members. If no one is available to run the fire district, the select board may place it into receivership.

In other new business, the absence of Keene was noted, with Rachel Kane commenting that “his death was a terrible blow to the district; we relied on his knowledge so much.” Casavant and Randy Thompson of Pleasant Street agreed to pursue hiring an interim (or possibly permanent) operator to replace Keene, who volunteered his time.

Under old business, Kane presented her ongoing research regarding potential demolition of the library and firehouse building on Main Street. The need for testing by an environmental engineer was discussed, due to the likely presence of mold, lead paint and asbestos. Kane has contacted companies that will take the refuse and she is researching demolition companies. The future use or disposition of the land was discussed with no decisions made. 
The status regarding completion of the land survey for the River Street property owned by EHFD#1 was discussed. Keene is working on this with town manager David Upson. Casavant will check with Upson on the status of the survey with the intention of having a completion date in the near future. The dumping of a plow on the property by a neighbor was discussed, along with the possibility of getting a lawyer involved to order its removal. Casavant will also talk with Upson about this process.