Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

September 13, 2012

Letter: Protect water supply from real risks

The Andover Townsman

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Editor, Townsman:

This July, a 8,000-gallon gasoline spill at the intersection of Interstate 95 with Route 38 threatened Woburn’s water supply. In 1992, 10,000 gallons of gasoline spilled off I-93 into the Ipswich River, threatened the surrounding towns’ water supplies. These are but a few local examples and there are countless others.

Andover’s Haggetts Pond is surrounded by roads, but by far the highest traffic and risk is related to I-93, which abuts a marsh that is connected directly into the pond. Last year a car veered off I-93 into an adjoining marsh.

Besides gasoline there are many other hazardous substances that pass by the pond on our roadways: fuel oil, other toxic chemicals or waste, the list could be quite lengthy, but a more occult one that is always present each winter is salt that is washed into Haggetts Pond. Finally, there is the possibility of a terroist attack on the water supply with poisonous or toxic substances.

By far the greatest threat is I-93 with its incredible traffic load, where drivers can even use the breakdown lanes at times.

So, how can we protect Andover’s water supply?

There is a marsh between the pond and I-93. A simple solution, to buy time, is to put a gating mechanism on the culvert that connects the marsh to the pond; this would give critical time for clean up and containment to be started. If there was a significant spillage it would still leach into the drinking water eventually.

A longer term solution would be a protective barrier including run-off diversion to protect the drinking water of about 33,000 people. We put up sonic barriers for small communities that have far fewer residents than that number; this could be a very shovel-ready project for the future.

Lowell Street (Route 133) is next in line as far as volume but way down from I-93 in volume and risk. For both Lowell and Haggetts Pond Road, we need good road maintenance and strong guard rails, slow speeds, thorough sanding and some salting as well. We already have effective police coverage but even more stringent speed control could be considered. I don’t think it’s economically practical to fight the salt issue on these roads but on I-93 is where I’d hold the line.

A final more subtle threat to the pond is siltification (silt and sediment forming from erosion of the shore line). This can be avoided by building shore line walls and breaker walls in areas of the pond shore line suffering from erosion.

Will Horsley

14 Evergreen Lane