MILFORD – Since John Stevens and his wife moved into their Cape Cod-style house in 1989, they have gone through four hot water heaters and three dishwashers.
Right now they have buckets in the cellar to catch drips from corroded pipe fittings.
Water with an extremely high mineral content, especially sulfates, is to blame, says John Stevens, who is president of the homeowners association for Ashley Commons, a 29-house cluster development built in the late 1980s.
The Stevens and their neighbors are happy that Pennichuck Water Works, which owns and operates their system, will be receiving $450,000 in funds to address the problem from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, otherwise known as the federal stimulus bill.
The project will also benefit the town.
Larry Anderson, Milford’s water and wastewater manager, said Pennichuck had two options: to redevelop the well and treat the problem or purchase water from the town. The company decided to go with the second option, and that decision is good for Milford, he said.
To hook into the Milford water system, Pennichuck will use the stimulus funds to build a south loop in the town’s water main.
Installation of the south loop – going from Hampshire Hills, down Emerson and Armory roads to Old Brookline Road – is part of the town’s master plan, and existing homes and businesses along the main will also have the opportunity to connect, he said. The installations in the town’s right of way will be turned over to the town.
The project can’t come soon enough for residents of Ashley Commons.
“Most people don’t drink it,” John Stevens said about the water, and several homeowners have replaced all their pipes.
Homeowners had to replace parts of the development’s communal septic system, he said, after they “crumbled and collapsed,” from corrosion.
And efforts by Pennichuck to soften the water in 1997 only made it worse, said Stevens.
At one point Pennichuck offered the homeowners under-sink filters.
“I don’t know anyone” who is still using them, said Stevens, because they became clogged so often they don’t work.
Last year the homeowners were disappointed when an adverse ruling from the state Public Utility Commission involving Pennichuck’s battle with the city of Nashua halted plans to fix the problem.
“We have had so many ups and downs,” since the water problems started in the late 1990s, he said.
According to Don Ware, president of regulated utilities for Pennichuck, the water at Ashley Commons currently meets all the criteria of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, but levels of FLUORIDE, between two and four parts per million, are not ideal, and 4 ppm violates the law.
From the perspective of drinking water quality, fluoride, “which occurs naturally in most New Hampshire water, is the issue,” he said.
Not all the homeowners’ problems can be blamed on the water, he said.
“No hot water tank lasts forever. Water is a universal solvent. Eventually it will destroy everything,” he said.
But Margaret Lucke said she and her husband, Frank, downsized from a house in Nashua four years ago and since buying their house at Ashley Commons had to spend about $2,500 to replace all their water taps, a hot water heater and dishwasher.
“It’s really bad. I was very happy to read in the Sunday Telegraph,” about the stimulus money for the project, she said.
Ware said Pennichuck is working with the state Department of Environmental Services to finalize the loan documents for the funding and the project will go out to bid. Work could start in early August and be finished in October, he said.