Friday, January 14, 2000
New Year, New Rules
The new year has brought a change to the Mosquito and how we deal with letters to the editor. We still pride ourselves on our efforts to print every letter that we receive. As always, only letters that "are libelous, obscene, in extremely poor taste or patently offensive" (Mosquito Editorial Policy, p.23) are withheld, and fortunately we see hardly any of those. We adhere to the 350-word limit (with a little wiggle room) simply for the sake of fairness. But a new rule has become a necessitythat of phone verificationand that is regrettable, not because it means more work for me as editor of the letters column, but because it signals an end to the paper's perhaps naive innocence.
Last month, the paper received letters that contained forged signatures. These were handed over to the police, who are conducting an investigation, but it is disconcerting to think that they could have slipped under our radar and been printed. To prevent this from happening in the future, we have instituted a policy that letters expressing an opinion (as opposed to letters of thanks, etc.) will need not only a signature, as required in the past, but also a verification by phone that the letter has actually come from the person who has signed it. Letters that cannot be verified will be held until the author can be reached. We apologize for the inconvenience this might cause and hope this will not discourage anyone from writing a letter to the editor.
Who Owns Our Water?
Water management in Carlisle is primarily an every-man-for-himself proposition, though the town's responsibility to ensure a continuing water supply was acknowledged by Town Meeting acceptance of the Carlisle 2000 report, which lists a town well as a priority community need.
The establishment of a Water Quality Committee (WQC) to advise the Board of Health on water quality and resources was a concrete response to specific water problems in 1997, when leakage from a gasoline storage tank infiltrated water systems in the town center. More recently, WQC has focused on the identification of a town well site.
A map of Carlisle aquifers suggests some potential sites for a town well, one in the cranberry bog area and another on the former O'Rourke property on Maple Street. After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased this land, the town was granted permission to use part of the site for a town well. Last year, Town Meeting approved funds for a hydrological study of the O'Rourke property to determine its feasibility.
While work on a town well site has gone forward, a new threat to an existing water resource has emerged. Three private companies, operating under the public-sounding name "Chelmsford Water District" (CWD), propose to develop six wells near the Cranberry Bog at the Carlisle/Chelmsford line. Both the selectmen and the Conservation Commission see the CWD plan as a potential threat to Carlisle's water resources. Mark Duffy, the cranberry farmer whose business requires water from the area targeted by CWD, says the cranberry bog operation is jeopardized by CWD's plans since the 357,000 gallons he is permitted to pump daily plus the 250,000 gallons which CWD proposes to take daily is beyond the capacity of this water resource. He believes there would not be enough water for the bog operation if CWD's wells are allowed.
The CWD proposal has already been preliminarily approved by the state. The matter is now before the Chelmsford Conservation Commission, which must hold public hearings before it issues or denies an order of conditions. It can be expected that their decision will be appealed. Town officials and Duffy attended a Chelmsford ConsCom hearing on December 21, and plan to be present at a January 18 hearing at the new Chelmsford Town Hall.
The wetland area supporting the bog lies in both towns. Water required for Duffy's operation comes from surface water (above bedrock) that lies primarily in Chelmsford, but is fed by wetlands in Carlisle. The cranberry operation is entirely in Carlisle. Important questions now need to be answered. Who owns the surface water, Carlisle or Chelmsford? What legal right to the water do we have? Can CWD, if given the go-ahead by Chelmsford's ConsCom, legally tap for its own profit a reservoir which lies under both towns? Who regulates water allocation in times of drought? Who is the watchdog for our water interests?
Carlisle's WQC was established by the Board of Health to monitor the quality of water and locate resources for a town well. ConsCom may act only when a wetland is involved. Duffy's operation is approved by the state to use the water in question for agricultural purposes, but if his water source is threatened with depletion by drought or sale for domestic use outside Carlisle, who has the authority to allocate it?
CWD's proposal may not affect our individual wells, but its resolution may establish precedents that will affect our future water resources.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito