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Shaheen visits Jaffrey to celebrate new water grant

New Hampshire Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen visited Jaffrey Wednesday to celebrate the announcement of a $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), which will be put toward the purchase of three new well sites and the construction of a new water treatment plant that will be shared between Peterborough and Jaffrey.

Shaheen met with Jaffrey and Peterborough town officials at the Jaffrey Fire Station, before taking a tour of the Jaffrey Water Department next door. Shaheen, who is the chair of the Senate appropriations committee that funds the EDA, helped to secure a total of $373.5 million during negotiations for fiscal 2022.

Shaheen has been aware of the collaborative water project since it was first proposed and has worked with Jaffrey to help secure the newest grant, which helped close a funding gap. When the project was first proposed, the estimate for the project was $12.6 million, but rising construction costs boosted the total cost to over $16.3 million.

“It’s a wonderful collaboration I think everyone should be proud of, particularly because it’s unique,” Shaheen said. “And hopefully it will work as a model for other communities.”

Jaffrey Town Manager Jon Frederick said this final grant has put Jaffrey in a position to now move forward with its portion of the cost, with the expectation that the two towns can break ground on the new water treatment plant in the spring.

“We’re excited. Peterborough has been sitting there patiently waiting for us,” Frederick said.

Peterborough Town Administrator Nicole MacStay, who attended the meeting remotely via video call, also thanked the senator for her assistance in securing the funds that will allow the project to move forward in the coming year. She said Peterborough needs the wells and extra water for additional fire flows in the southern part of town, as well as providing a water source from a different aquifer. All of Peterborough’s wells currently draw from the same source, which could be an issue if the source is contaminated.

“Our goal is really to provide that redundancy,” MacStay said.

Frederick said the new wells are key for Jaffrey, which needs them both for the future economic development in town and to keep a stable water supply. One of the Jaffrey public wells has been offline for more than a year after one of its quarterly tests came back over the limit for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). While the well has only tested over the limit once, Frederick said the town has not put it back online, and is still searching for the potential source of the contamination.

Jaffrey Water Superintendent Tony Cavaliere said the town has been looking at potential solutions to mitigate the PFOS contamination, but at this point, a permanent filtering process would cost more than $8 million.

Jaffrey Selectman Franklin Sterling told Shaheen that any grant assistance for mitigation efforts, or to address Jaffrey’s aging water and sewer infrastructure, would be crucial to addressing those needs, as Jaffrey only has a small customer base, which is essentially stagnant, and already has some of the highest water rates in the state.

“People are already paying pretty much as much as they can,” Sterling said.

MacStay echoed those sentiments, noting that Peterborough also has an aging infrastructure facing the same problems.

Shaheen has been involved with the negotiations to include water infrastructure provisions on a new bipartisan infrastructure law, which includes up to $4 billion to address PFOS and other contaminants through the state’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, and a further $1 billion through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.