The following editorial appeared in the February 24, 2011 issue of the Carroll County Independent
On the warrant in six of our towns on March 8 is a drinking water protection ordinance. Ossipee and Madison already have protection ordinances in place that will be updated this year, but the protection is new this year to Effingham, Freedom, Sandwich and Tamworth.
We think it is vital to the literal health of Carroll County itself that these protections be put in place and urge all of our readers to vote for them. In Ossipee and Tamworth the ordinance is Article 2; in Freedom it is Article 2.1; in Madison and Sandwich it is Article 2.4; and in Effingham it is Article 3.
There are a great many reasons to vote in favor of the restrictions imposed by these ordinances, but the best single reason is the Ossipee aquifer itself. On the front page of this issue we publish a map of the Ossipee portion of the aquifer, which extends into all six towns. As you can see, it is massive and extensive and parallels and underlies major roads, most notably Routes 16 and 25.
It is the source of the drinking water for most of us, and it feeds most of the lakes and streams in the county. Though the language of the individual town ordinances varies somewhat, it reflects a remarkable multi-year effort by volunteers in all six towns to protect this irreplaceable resource.
The main thing that these ordinances do is to prohibit hazardous commercial activities from taking place over the aquifer. The main commercial uses prohibited are: 1) hazardous waste disposal facilities, including solid waste landfills; 2) septage lagoons and wastewater treatment facilities; 3) storage of road salt or other deicing chemicals in bulk; 4) junkyards; 5) snow dumps; 6) gasoline stations; and 7) other facilities storing large quantities of fuel oil and gasoline, especially in underground tanks. Some of the ordinances prohibit other specific uses: the Effingham ordinance, for example, also does not allow golf courses, dry cleaning facilities, race tracks or vehicle proving grounds, or car wash facilities not using a closed water recovery system. Other towns allow these other uses but only with special permits that require the applicant to show how it will handle quantities of hazardous material to avoid spills and pollution.
The prohibited commercial uses are all large-scale operations capable of releasing significant amounts of pollutants into the groundwater, thereby poisoning wells, streams and lakes over large areas.
This is not a theoretical risk being stomped on by fussy perfectionists trying to suppress commercial development. Since 1990 $3.5 million has been spent by the NH Petroleum Fund Program to clean up hazardous spills in the six towns. Of that total,$2,480,807 has been spent in Ossipee, including significant spills at M & V Convenience Store on Route 16 ($680,314 spent through Dec. 15, 2010) and Abbott & Staples gas station on Route 25 ($248,579 through the same date), according to the NH Department of Environmental Services.
We have heard a number of objections to these ordinances, none of which, in our opinion, are persuasive. One is that such restrictions will inhibit commercial development, especially along Route 16. To that objection we ask you to review the list of prohibited uses above and ask yourself how much wealth such activities are likely to bring to the residents of Carroll County. Also look at recent commercial developments in Ossipee, the town with the oldest ordinance: the Tractor Supply and Family Dollar stores were not blocked by the rules.
Another objection, raised by Rep. Mark McConkey (who, with Vincent Vaccaro, owns M & V Convenience) is that the ordinance excludes residential users of some of the same hazardous materials. This is a red herring, brought in to doom the commercial restrictions by getting residents up in arms about the ordinance imposing unreasonable restrictions on them. None of the major cleanup funds mentioned above were for cleaning up something spilled in a driveway.
Finally there is the complaint that the six ordinances are not uniform from town to town. That is the result of allowing residents of individual towns to control their own lives to the greatest degree possible, and we say, thank goodness for that.
Don’t assume that these vital measures will pass because they are obviously needed to protect a basic resource. Make a point of voting for them and make sure your neighbors show up at the polls on March 8 and vote for them as well.