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State Threatening To Sue Military Over Water Pollution

Test Of Private Well Shows Chemical

May 19, 2003 | AP

State environmental officials have given the U.S. military until May 27 to take responsibility for chemical contamination found in a Bourne drinking water well or face legal action.

A test of a private well in Bourne found levels of perchlorate a chemical used in explosives that has been shown to interfere with thyroid function and cause birth defects nearly twice the state's safety standard.

The state on Monday will send letters to other Bourne neighbors of the Massachusetts Military Reservation informing them of the test results and asking for permission to test all private wells.

"From our point of view, there is contamination out there," said John Fitzgerald, director of the state Department of Environmental Protection's division of response and remediation. "But we don't believe there is an immediate need for concern."

The Boston Globe obtained a May 13 "notice of responsibility" in which the state directed the Army to provide bottled water to the affected residents and either connect their homes to a public water supply or install water treatment systems in their homes.

The Army is considering its response.

"We do not know whether the well contamination is connected with the impact area," said Ben Gregson, the Army's technical program manager for the area. "It's a difficult situation."

The 21,000-acre military reservation located in parts of four Cape Cod towns, is a federal Superfund site. It has been used for military training since 1911 but sits on the region's primary aquifer which provides water to more than 280,000 year-round residents.

Half of the public wells in Bourne were shut down last spring after trace amounts of perchlorate were found in the town's water supply. The Army has since drilled hundreds of test wells trying to track the perchlorate plumes.

But no action to contain or clean up the contamination has taken place as agencies argue over how much perchlorate is acceptable in drinking water. The state's standard of one part per billion is lower than the federal standard of between 4 and 18 ppb.

The Bourne Water District has scheduled a public meeting on Tuesday to update residents about what is being done to address the test findings, but there won't be much to say because the Army has not yet accepted responsibility, said district manager Ralph Marks.

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