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Water deal reached for well users.

Byline: Brian Lee

SOUTHBRIDGE - Southbridge has completed an agreement under which Charlton would pay $150,000 so that Southbridge can sell water to Charlton residents, an official said yesterday.

The agreement may be voted on Tuesday by a subcommittee of the Southbridge Town Council and then sent to the full council for consideration.

The agreement is designed to provide water to 120 homes in Charlton whose systems have been contaminated by a gasoline plume, for which the state has deemed Exxon Mobil Corp. responsible. The plume spreads the cancer-causing gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether to local wells.

More Charlton homes would be covered under the agreement if contamination spreads underground, which it often does, Southbridge Town Manager Christopher Clark said.

The original agreement contemplated that Southbridge would provide water to Charlton, and Charlton would distribute the water to its residents, but Charlton lacks the departmental staffing, Mr. Clark said.

He said it made more sense to have the Southbridge operate and maintain the system Charlton has in place. Southbridge already provides water to two Massachusetts Turnpike rest areas and a state police barracks in Charlton.

Charlton's $150,000 payment will go toward a chlorine upgrade for Southbridge's system, which is estimated to cost $300,000 to $500,000, Mr. Clark said. The upgrade will satisfy new state Department of Environmental Protection standards that will take effect in 2013.

"Realistically, they have 120 homes," the manager said. "We service 7,000 dwellings. They're contributing 50 percent, and they're only a very small fraction of our total customers."

Charlton also requested water for fire protection, but Mr. Clark said, "We don't believe the system is capable of doing that. We agreed to look at it to see. The primary purpose of it is to take care of contamination. We're trying to do drinking water."

In October, town councilors ratified a memorandum of agreement with Cady Brook Apartments, a low- to moderate-income housing development in Charlton whose septic system is too close to its well. HAP Inc., which owns the development, installed a 16-inch water line on Route 169 for Southbridge, though the development only needed a 6- or 8-inch line.

The additional capacity with the larger line lets Southbridge help Charlton with its other water needs. The agreement with Charlton allows Southbridge "to do separate agreements on a case-by-case basis," Mr. Clark said.

Southbridge can produce about 1.7 million gallons per day of water, but has the ability to go up to 4.8 million gallons per day, officials said.

The town, through a special act passed in 1970, can sell water to Charlton.

DPW Director Kenneth Kalinowski said yesterday he intended to meet with John Gatti, a resident who was concerned about how the agreement would affect Southbridge's long-range plans.

Mr. Kalinowski said Mr. Gatti's concerns were fair, but the agreement shouldn't have a lot of bearing on long-range planning, nor should it be considered "a serious threat" to water capacity. "They are distantly related," Mr. Kalinowski said.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 11, 2008
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