Editor’s note: This story by Will Walters comes to vtdigger.org 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.