With cleanup all but complete at the Durham Meadows Superfund site, officials have turned their attention to the next phase of the cleanup — delivering drinkable water to homes around the site.
On Monday night, selectman agreed to move forward with the design phase of a water supply system that would bring water from the city of Middletown to homes in Durham Center whose wells are contaminated.
"This has come about after many, many, many years of study," said First Selectman Laura Francis. "It's been determined that the city of Middletown water supply is the most cost-effective way to solve this problem."
The town has been looking for a clean water source since discovering water contamination at the former location of Merriam Manufacturing Company and Durham Manufacturing Company, both located on Main Street, more than a decade ago.
While officials have said the project could cost upwards of $13 million, Francis said the first step would be to request a plan from the Environmental Protection Agency.
"They have complete funding for a design that would bring water from Middletown to the Superfund site," she said.
Selectman John Szewczyk questioned whether the town should be moving forward before all options are considered, specifically whether several potential sites in Durham could be used as a water supply source.
"If we can do it cheaper and quicker, and keep it right here in town, is that something that we want to definitely dole out before we go forward with agreeing to this with Middletown," Szewczyk asked.
State officials would be less likely to approve a ground water source as a public water supply, Francis said, adding that the town would be on its own again if the source of water were ever to go bad.
"A public water supply is safer than ground water under the influence," Francis said.
Selectman Steve Levy questioned the cost of the water system on homeowners.
"There will be a public benefit share," Francis said, referring to the initial cost homeowners must pay to hook up to the water system. "The town of Durham would buy wholesale at the border and so customers will remain Durham customers, not be part of the Middletown billing plan."