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Facing Water Woes, Hampstead Lawmakers Hope to Strengthen DES Oversight

Ceyhun (Jay) Isik


Lawmakers from southern New Hampshire want to give the state more control over commercial wells run by water companies. The move comes after the town of Hampstead discovered that a private companies' rate of pumping water was contributing to residential wells running dry.

The proposed bills would expand oversight by the state's Department of Environmental Services over two types of commercial well operations: small and large groundwater withdrawals.

Small groundwater withdrawals pump fewer than 40 gallons per minute and can supply hundreds of families a day. Large groundwater withdrawals pump over 40 gallons per minute. Under current laws, large withdrawal wells built before 1998 - and wells built to replace them - are exempt from standards established in the 1998 Groundwater Protection Act.

DES currently oversees both types of wells, but the proposed bills would create stricter standards for new wells built to replace these grandfathered wells, and for all new small groundwater withdrawals. It would also require water companies to mitigate negative impacts from their large groundwater withdrawals on nearby residential wells.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Republican Representative Mark Pearson, says the goal is to ensure that new wells don’t have an adverse impact on surrounding ecosystems and residential wells.

“The wells that are in existence - we’re not going to go after them or punish them,” he says. “What we're going to do is make sure that these large wells aren't going to proliferate except under new regulations.”


Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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