Claire Hutchinson: Leverett homes to get clean water

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Clean water is on the way for the five homes in Leverett whose wells have been contaminated by a plume from a capped landfill.

The proposed milelong extension to the existing water line will transport safe water from the Amherst system to these residences. Although the landfill was capped in 1996, toxic chemicals leached into the groundwater. The five homes most impacted by the contaminated water have suffered from high levels of manganese and 1,4-dioxane, which is considered to be a likely carcinogen.

These residents have been strong advocates arguing for a longer-term solution to the contaminated water. Rather than the town supplying the homes with free water filters and bottled water, these residents came together and formed Citizens for Landfill Environmental Action Now! (CLEAN!). Working with Community Action Works, the group spoke at public meetings and eventually backed an article containing three solutions.

It is exciting that the community’s organizing efforts were successful, and that these Leverett homes will finally have usable water. Although this success is commendable, we cannot forget that our communities continue to have a waste problem. This specific landfill is no longer in use, yet us residents living in the greater Amherst-area continue to rely on a waste removal system that dumps trash in landfills.

Landfills will continue to cause problems as long as they are in use, and decades after they are closed. By sending our trash to a landfill, we are still endangering a community. Leverett is finally moving toward a permanent solution, yet communities across the region, country, and world will continue to deal with contaminated water near landfills until our society solves our waste problem.

Landfills are pervasive environmental threats; even though local water contamination is being addressed, our community still contributes to a landfill and water contamination risks in another area. We should learn from the experience of these Leverett families.

Right now the state is making it’s new plan for what to do with our state’s waste for the next decade. Now is the time to commit to policies that get us to zero waste and end our dependency on landfills.

Claire Hutchinson