Cabot residents wary of Creamery’s water usage

Editor’s note: This story by Will Walters comes to through a special arrangement with The Hardwick Gazette.

CABOT – The Agency of Natural Resources took testimony from residents on the impact of three wells used by Cabot Creamery on local water supplies.

The owners of neighboring properties say the Creamery is draining an aquifer they rely on to supply water to their homes.

The Creamery, which is owned by the Massachusetts-based dairy cooperative Agri-Mark, uses about 30 million gallons of water from its three wells a year.

Officials from the Creamery discovered in 2007 that they needed to obtain a state permit for the wells because they were using some of the water for drinking purposes.

Jim Pratt, senior vice president of operations of Cabot Creamery, said in an interview that 70 percent to 80 percent of the water is used for process cleaning, and a small amount is used for sinks and drinking fountains. He said the water has been tested every few months by the Agency of Agriculture and there has never been a problem.

Jill Alexander, whose farm is located within the “source protection area” of the three wells, has asked the Agency to study the effect of the Creamery’s water consumption on neighboring wells and the aquifer before granting a permit to the cooperative.

Rodney Pingree, water resources division chief, said the Agency may perform a study if officials find that the Creamery’s water usage is impacting wells in the surrounding area, but he said there could be other causes for dropping water levels.

Alexander said the water supply to her well has been reduced over the last four years, and she wants “to establish they (the Creamery’s wells) aren’t affecting my well.”

“Thirty million (gallons) could have a severe impact or no impact at all” on the water supply to nearby wells, according to Shane Zisman, who is working with the neighbors in his capacity as the legal aide for the Toxics Action Center.

Zisman asked that the state require Agri-Mark to use town water and to hire a hydrogeologist to conduct tests.

Village Trustee Carl Bean said the village water system doesn’t have the capacity to supply 85,000 gallons a day to the Creamery. That much usage would cause a water shortage in the village, Bean said.

The Agency of Natural Resources will accept public comments in writing through June 28.

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  • Jill Alexander

    Many things were neglected to be reported by Bill Walters from that hearing. For instance, he neglected to mention the very large area included in Agri-Mark’s source protection plan, SPP. The map displayed at the Town Clerk’s office differs fom the map shown in the plan. The map included in the Source Protection Plan showed most of the Cabot village, parts of lower Cabot, and many areas where the Winooski River flows. What Bill Walters forgot to mention is that these areas, according to the SPP 4.0 ASSESSMENT OF THREATS (done by The Johnson Company who Agri-Mark hires to do its testings) lists these wells to be at HIGH risk of contamination from fuel storage, CHEMICAL storage, parking/paved areas, and sewer lines. Table 7: Spills Database Listing Summary SPP shows Agri-Mark, DBA Cabot Creamery to have spilled 10 gallons #6 fueld oil, 55 galllons aqua-amonia in 1993, 100 gallons of diesel fuel in 1998, and the famous 2005 ammonia leak that killed a reported 5 1/2 miles of fish in the Winooski River. Not mentioned was the 1983 ammonia spill which are all in the SPP
    which all could affect the aquifer’s contamination.
    So not only are some of us having our wells depleted and question whether a Agri-Mark’s 30 million gallon withdrawal each year would affect us, as hydrologists have suggested that it could likely be the case, BUT also we were never notified about all of this. Had Agri-Mark applied for the Act 250 permits that the should have done, and I might add as the rest of us citizens would be fined for NOT complying with, impact studies would have been done on all the water sources within the aquifer area.
    I now liken this Agri-Mark, Massachusetts based giant, to the second landing at Plymouth Rock. Instead of bearing small pox blankets they brought “high risk contamination threats” to our water supply.
    Who knows if our wells/water are already polluted with chemicals? Nobody is testing for them nor has Agri-Mark agreed to do so. Who is going to pay to moniter OUR water and make sure it is safe? What has this done to our property values? If the aquifer is polluted by Agri-Mark and it is being used for toilets/sinks as they say, can the Cabot Waste Disposal system segregate these chemicals or are they being released into the Winooski? I don’t think this resonates with their “good neighbor” image Agri-Mark tried to lip sink!
    Agri-Mark wants to self-moniter itself and yet it shows in that same SPP where from March of 06 to March of 08, they withdrew 23 out of 24 months more gallons of water than their permit application allowed! In the month of Aug of 06 their records showed that they had an average withdrawal of 153,800 gallons a day – over one and one half times the amount they wanted on the original 2007 permit application!
    For all of these reasons we feel that they need to be hooked up to the Village Water to have their water consumption accurately metered until we can get a hydrologist in here to find out the impacts on the aquifer and the surrounding wells tested for chemicals and other things at “high risk” (hopefully mandated to be paid for at Agri-Mark’s expense).
    Jill Alexander

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