I have had much respect for Councilperson Page in the past, but the recent letter and vote on the Groundwater Ordinance is extremely discouraging.  While this is a very complex issue and some on social media didn’t always get the facts straight; the underlying basis of the concern is very real.  The bulk of the ordinance is long overdue and very much welcome, but removing the reservoir protection demonstrates lack of stewardship for our future water supply and places development pressure over public health.

Up until the council vote, the reservoirs were protected equally as wellhead protection areas, (still included in the official GW map and Hunt referenced in text).  There are 11 land uses such as new car dealerships, medical, dental, veterinary, machine shops; all previously prohibited and now allowed to be built over the reservoirs.  Ask town officials if this is true.  It is beyond belief to have town staff and elected officials claim this is not a downgrade.

The town has shut down 4 wells due to underground contaminates.  Without spending money on expensive treatments, relocation is inevitable.  The town is trying to move well 6 and currently proposing lots to the south.  If they move well 6,  the current wellhead protection area will go with it.  This will open the lower half of our largest reservoir (the Hunt) to the 11 previously prohibited land uses.  It only takes one contaminated site to ruin a reservoir.  One of their answers is requiring monitoring wells which are like smoke detectors; they don’t prevent contamination, only let you know if your levels are exceeding the limits, at which time the town will take action.

Reservoirs by definition have 40 feet of saturated soil needed to handle the draw from a public well.  Oddly they recently approved $93K to test wells where there is no reservoir.  With one of the largest bodies of reservoir still largely untapped, the town will likely be relocating wells in the future where the associated WHPA will cover this area and it will be too late to restrict the land uses as the council has just approved them.

While one member Ms. Page acknowledged that sits on both Groundwater and Conservation has changed his mind (as he voted for both amendments in both committees and even seconded the motion of one), at least 3 others members spoke in continued support of the amendments along with several members of the Land Conservancy.  Despite support of the geologist and hydrologists on the GW committee or that wrote the council, development pressure won over.  This is no surprise when you look at where campaign funds are coming from.

Kevin Maloney

North Kingstown

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