To the Citizens of Manchester:
Please come to Town Meeting on Monday evening, and vote to approve Article 5!
Most of us drink and cook with town water in Manchester – lucky us! In much of the world, even in many parts of our United States, we wouldn’t dare swallow what comes from municipal supplies. In our country, health regulations generally assure that public drinking water is potable, but at an increasing cost for filtration, chlorination, and other necessary treatments.
As we know from DPW annual reports on our drinking water, DEP and EPA, as well as FDA and Mass. Dept. of Public Health are all involved in assuring that contaminants are within prescribed limits in order to protect public health. What are the potential contaminants? Bacteria, other microorganisms, salts, heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides, organic chemicals, etc. Why are we safer from many of these hazards than other parts of our region and country? To a large part, because of our lovely woodlands. More than 3,000 acres of forest and wetlands make up this valuable “storage facility.”
Two-thirds of our public water supply comes from Gravelly Pond, Round Pond, and supplementary wells off Chebacco Road in Hamilton. The watershed includes 412 acres of woodlands in Manchester, as well as in Hamilton, Wenham, and Beverly. It also includes a section of Route 128 and most of the Gordon College campus, which regularly contribute road salt and oil residues. While the watershed portion in Hamilton has been preserved (Gordon Woods), only 14% of the portion in Manchester is permanently preserved. This is why the Conservation Commission is asking this fall’s Town Meeting to begin to address this need by adding two Town-owned tax-title parcels totaling 4.3 acres (Article 5 on the Warrant).
What if unprotected parcels fall to development? Then rainfall, instead of soaking into undisturbed soil, where airborne impurities are neutralized, would run off newly disturbed or paved surfaces, taking with it road salt, oil and other contaminants. Newly established lawns or areas used for agriculture would contribute fertilizers and pesticides to the water that collects in ponds and flows in streams. Septic systems, always subject to failure, can contribute germs and household or industrial wastes. As water rushes off the land toward the ocean, there would be less to supply the ponds and wells.
In short, there would be less drinking water for us, and the water would be of inferior quality and would require more expensive chemical treatment.
The Planning Board has chosen not to support this action, citing the Assessors’ current effort to identify owners of other lots in the area that have long been unknown. But the Town’s ownership of the Article 5 lots is not in doubt. Waiting will not change the fact that this land’s best use is insuring nature’s ability to protect the Town’s drinking water.
The Open Space Committee and the Conservation Commission ask you to support Article 5!
Helen Bethell & Francie Caudill
Members of the Manchester Open Space Committee