Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

November 7, 2013

Town deserves answers on wastewater sludge case

(Continued)

In recent weeks, Berberian has become increasingly vocal about the case, bringing his story to the local and Boston media and demanding that he be heard at public meetings, as he was this past Monday night when he secured a 15-minute time slot during the public comment period on the Board of Selectmen’s agenda.

Allegations of cover-up and malfeasance were bandied about by Berberian as he highlighted key reports, correspondence and other materials he has compiled. He contends those documents clearly show that town officials have admitted fault and have skirted their responsibility and liability, all while putting the health of his family, including several children, as well as the greater community at risk.

Berberian asserts that the town’s own reports and paid employees have acknowledged higher than allowable levels of arsenic — in one case two times the imminent health hazard level, he says — in the water coming out of the Bancroft water tank.

For selectmen’s part, they say the matter is in litigation, which prevents them from discussing it in detail. But selectmen Chairman Alex Vispoli did read a statement Monday night following Berberian’s presentation that said it is not uncommon for sediment to build up in large water tanks such as the 6 million-gallon Bancroft one.

But pointing to an October 2011 report and other testing that has been conducted, Vispoli asserted the town is confident the drinking water consistently being suppled to Andover residents “has been tested and found to meet standards set” by the state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Why, then, has this matter dragged on for three years? No one agrees to hand over close to $1/2 million to settle a case if one doesn’t exist in some fashion.

It is hard for us to imagine any town official in Andover would knowingly put the health of the people they are elected to serve at risk. It’s hard, too, to imagine they wouldn’t take claims to the contrary seriously, even if they consider them to be entirely without merit.

Still, plenty of questions have been raised and doubt has been cast. In our eyes, the burden of proof rests with the selectmen as the town’s elected leaders. They owe it to assure residents that when they go to pour a glass of water from their faucets for their children, they never have to think twice about whether it’s safe.

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