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Guest Column: Support Town Meeting Article 34

October 16, 2015

The following was written by Precinct 5 Town Meeting Rep. Bill Hamilton. An abridged version of this letter to the editor appeared in the October 15 edition of The Walpole Times:

Several months ago, Walpole residents successfully fought off a substantial threat to our water supply, in the form of a cemetery on top of our aquifer.

But the fight to protect our water supply is not over. Town Meeting must make sure that cemeteries can no longer be built in areas that would endanger our aquifer.

As we saw with the now-defeated cemetery proposal, the town is vulnerable when our aquifer zones are not consistent with the state’s aquifer zones. The Mass. Department of Environmental Protection had declared that the cemetery in our aquifer would not endanger our water supply, because they misunderstood where our aquifer zones lie.

In order to address this inconsistency, Town Meeting must act on Article 34, which brings our Water Resource Protection Overlay District in to conformity with state law. Only aquifers that supply portable water to public wells can be designated Zone 2, and be protected by state law. However, Walpole’s aquifer is designated Area 2 and Area 3, and provides water to our public wells, but is not designated Zone 2 and thus is not protected by state law.

It was not clear to the DEP that Walpole’s aquifer Area 3 was actually a Zone 2, and they approved a cemetery in our public water supply aquifer. State law restricts cemetery use in Zone 2, and the DEP should not have approved it without evidence it would not contaminate our public water supply.

By simply renaming our town’s Area 2 to “Zone 2 > 40 feet” and Area 3 to “Zone 2 < 40 feet” our WRPOD will gain the added protection of state law. If Article 34 fails, Walpole could have to bear the cost of defending any legal challenge to our WRPOD in a court of law without the benefit of state law.

Article 34 also changes Area 4 to Zone 3.

No regulations or boundaries are affected by Article 34, as it only changes the aquifer zone label names to conform to state definitions. All the science and hydrology used to document our WRPDD stands unchanged. Our aquifer qualifies as a Zone 2 and should be so designated, as Article 34 proposes to do.

Another important example of the need for consistency between our aquifer zones and state statutes is seen in Spectra Energy’s proposal to route a third gas pipeline through Walpole, paralleling the two other oil and gas pipelines. This type of activity in our sole source drinking water supply can be disruptive to our water supply. We need Article 34 to ensure the EPA and DEP act on Walpole’s behalf to apply state and federal law to protect our drinking water to the full extent of the law.

Thank you to lead petitioner John O’Leary, and the other citizens who signed the petition to put Article 34 on the Town Meeting Warrant, for the opportunity to help save our drinking water. Please encourage your RTMs to vote “yes” to this important measure on October 19.

William T. Hamilton
Eldor Drive
South Walpole

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