Newport Center Holds Off Opening Old Water Well Due to Arsenic

NEWPORT CENTER – Newport Center officials want to rejuvenate a well that has been off line for more than a decade. But first they need to deal with arsenic levels higher than permitted by the federal government.Putting the old well on line will ease concerns about water issues during the summer months, when town officials ask 150 or so homes on the systems to conserve water.The town took the system off line because it was too close to a private residence than the state allowed, at the time, for a municipal water system. If the town wanted to continue to use it, the state would have imposed a boil order forever.“It was nothing to do with the quantity or quality of water,” Newport Town Select Board Chair Steve Barrup said Thursday. “It was too close.”Newport Town could have bought the land but the owner didn’t want to sell, or the town could shut the well down. The town opted to shut it down. Since then, the state relaxed the distance requirements making the well okay to use.Town officials found the arsenic while testing the well last week. “We have found in doing the testing that it has a 20 parts per billion arsenic level, which is above federal EPA standard for arsenic in a public water supply,” Barrup said.According to the EPA website, the standard arsenic level for drinking water is 10 parts per billion. Arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, kidney, nasal passages, liver and prostate. Non-cancer effects include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and numbness in hands and feet, partial paralysis and blindness.There are no regulations for private well systems.“If you want to drink faulty water, you can drink faulty water,” Barrup said. “It’s when you have a public system you have to jump through all the federal guidelines that are out there for a public water system. That’s the problem we have now. We’re jumping through those hoops and we need to address those issues.”Town officials will not have to build an extensive multimillion dollar treatment facility as Newport City did because the system is not large. The system, once on line, will pump 15 gallons a minute. “It’s something like a homeowner,” said Barrup, who explained there’s a small treatment system available. Barrup doesn’t know how much it will cost. “The engineer is currently working on that for the town as we speak.”There are grants available to help communities comply with federal guidelines. The existing well doesn’t have arsenic even though it's 100 feet away from the system in question.  Barrup explained the existing one is 500 feet deep and the one in question is 1,000 feet deep.“If you think about it, it’s like a water supply underneath another water supply,” said Barrup. Town officials would like to put the older system back on line as soon as possible. Until then, they are asking residents to conserve water, at least for now.