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Judge Orders Temporary Restrictions on Hampstead Area Water Company

Courtesy of Deanna Anthony

A judge in Rockingham County has ordered one of New Hampshire's largest privately-owned water utility companies to temporarily limit how much water it pumps from a commercial well, citing major water quality and shortage issues in nearby residential wells.

The order stems from a lawsuit brought in 2019 by a group of homeowners in Hampstead who say their wells suffered or dried up because of commercial pumping rates of the nearby Hampstead Area Water Company (HAWC). The lawsuit alleges that HAWC and its operator, Lewis Builders Company, engaged in illegal operations, and it asks that HAWC connect plaintiffs at no cost to its commercial water lines.

HAWC supplies water to about 6,700 people in Atkinson and Hampstead, and it relies on large state-permitted wells in the area to do so. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental services found that its pumping rate at certain wells corresponded to fluctuations in groundwater levels that hurt nearby residential wells.

In a preliminary injunction issued last week, Judge Daniel St. Hilaire ordered HAWC to lower its pumping rate of a commercial well near the affected area to 35 gallons per minute, and to supply 400 gallons of water a day to one of the families involved in the lawsuit.

That family says it has not had potable water from their well for two and half years. Judge St. Hilaire noted that the other plaintiffs had not provided evidence they would have water issues if HAWC pumped at the reduced rate, and were not eligible for preliminary relief. The judge also denied a request for HAWC to install and operate monitors on all the residential wells in question.

Litigation in the case is ongoing; a trial date has not been set yet.

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