A group of Hampstead residents is suing the town’s privately-operated water utility, Hampstead Area Water Company, and its operator, Lewis Builders Development, alleging the companies’ operations are illegal and have made the residents’ wells virtually unusable.
About a third of Hampstead residents are hooked up to the utility's water lines, which get water from large wells it operates throughout the town. HAWC, as the utility is called, came under fire earlier this year when state and local investigations revealed one of its wells was pumping at a rate that contributed to nearby residential wells running dry.
The well in question is considered a “grandfathered” well, which protects it from strict state regulations that went into effect in 1998. This designation has been a major sticking point for residents with compromised or defunct wells looking for solutions.
Now, the lawsuit alleges this well does not meet the criterion of a grandfathered well. It says HAWC installed it illegally by providing misleading data and circumventing procedures with the Department of Environmental Services when they built it.
The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs "have incurred, and will continue to incur, substantial damages, which include, without limitation, severe and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of their properties, interference with their use of water, and diminution in property value, economic loss related to costs of bottled or treated water; economic costs related to the drilling of additional private groundwater wells; investigations, sampling, and engineerings fees; legal fees; great inconvenience and hardship; emotional distress, pain and suffering [...]"
The plaintiffs - all residents of Hampstead - are asking for financial damages, for the wells in question to be discontinued, and for HAWC to hook them up at no cost to HAWC’s water lines.
Deanna Anthony, one of the plaintiffs who brought this issue to the press and to regulators over a year ago, said in a written statement to NHPR: “We’ve been suffering for too long without resolution. It’s time to hold them accountable.”
HAWC could not be reached for comment.