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Local Government and Politics, News

Lynnfield defeats $5.5M water treatment plant

LYNNFIELD In the face of fierce opposition, the Lynnfield Center Water District (LCWD) commissioners withdrew a proposal for a $5.5 million filtration plant.

“The people have spoken,” said Commission Chairwoman Constance Leccese. “They have expressed their objections and we heard them. We are here to serve the ratepayers.”

Instead, the 230 voters, who attended the Special District Meeting Monday night at the Lynnfield Middle School, overwhelmingly supported a proposal by ratepayer Stephanie Rauseo to authorize funding up to $250,000 for a study to replace or supplement the town’s water supply.

The report is expected to be presented at an LCWD meeting next April.

Voter turnout was low. Of the 2,600 ratepayers, less than 9 percent of homeowners cast ballots.

The issue came to a boil last summer when a standing-room-only crowd packed the LCWD’s hearing room to demand clean water. Residents spoke of living with brown water and ruined laundry for years. They blamed the district for being unresponsive.

The residents demanded answers to why the water in their homes is brown, and sometimes black, making it undrinkable, and ruining clothes. They asked what will be done and if there’s a plan to remedy the problem.

In the short term, the commission approved a plan to pay up to $200 for a water filter. So far, about a dozen homeowners have taken advantage of the program.

Leccese and commissioners Kenneth Burnham and Richard M. Lamusta proposed construction of a $5.5 million filtration plant at the Glen Drive Pumping Station. They and their consultant, Boston-based engineering and construction firm CDM Smith, said the filtering system was necessary to reduce iron and manganese problems that have led to brown and black water in four dozen homes.

A “yes” vote would have funded construction of two filters. The second phase of the project was a $250,000 feasibility study to explore alternative water sources that LCWD could draw from in the future.

But ratepayers were skeptical. They asked why the commissioners were so quick to spend ratepayers’ money to fund a solution that may or may not work.

Rauseo, who lives on Russet Lane in the Apple Hill neighborhood, said voters did the right thing.

“My proposal was the way to go,” she said. “We need more water, I’m not telling the commission where to get it, we need to find out where to get it.”

The commissioners are awaiting the results of a $50,000 study that will address ways to deal with the discolored water.

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