The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 2, 2000


Taps Off to Board of Health

The Carlisle Board of Health should be commended for offering to coordinate voluntary water testing for town residents, and also for its honest and forthright manner in dealing with methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and other water issues in the center.

No doubt, residents, particularly those with tainted water, would say that the clean-up in the center has moved too slowly. Board members have also been concerned but the ultimate authority of hazardous sites falls under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Environmental Protection, not the local board of health. In fact, the board formed the water quality subcommittee in 1997 so this group, including experts in the field, could more closely monitor town center water issues and advocate for residents. Before three different Town Meetings, in April 1996, May 1997 and May 1998, members of the boards explained the need, requested and received funding of $5,000, $5,000 and $10,000 respectively, primarily to test private town center wells.

The board completed testing of a number of private wells in Zone A (a circle 1,500 feet from the center statue) in February 1 and 22, 1997, April 5, 1998 and February 28, 1998. For each successive round of testing, the circle from the center expanded and some re-testing was done. In addition, since June 1997, according to a schedule approved by the DEP, the Daisy family's licensed site professional, 21E, Inc., has tested the three wells where the MTBE level exceeds the state drinking water standard (70 parts per billion) and three other wells with lower levels of MTBE.

Furthermore, officials have been looking ahead. To consider the demands for future water and sewage facilities, the board of selectmen requested $20,000 in November 1996. Officials led the way for the purchase of the O'Rourke Farm and the board of health received $30,000 from the Town Meeting in May 1999 and $20,000 in May 2000 to locate a potential municipal water supply on the property.

Private wells, like private septic systems, can pose potential health hazards. Where to draw the line between private and public responsibility is not always clear. However, from our vantage point, the board of health has always made any and all information easily accessible. They have gone to great lengths -- letters and multiple phone calls sometimes -- to schedule water testing with individuals. They have notified residents when the results exceeded the norm and now they have agreed to coordinate private testing of wells for all homeowners.

Today was the last day to sign-up for the testing. It was surprising, considering the concerns expressed last month, that as of May 31, only 25 residents availed themselves of the June 11 service, and none of them are the center residents who expressed dismay about their water quality and insufficient testing. Unlike those who just speak up when an issue gets close to home, the board of health volunteers meet twice monthly to oversee public and private wells, septic system repairs and installations, utilization of new septic system technologies, oil tank removals, flu clinics for the elderly, hazardous waste collections, food licenses and revision of town policies. The board of health agent and volunteers on the board of health and water quality subcommittee deserve a nod of appreciation for always looking out for what's in the best interest of Carlisle's public health and making the time to coordinate the June 11 testing effort.

DSL Dilemma

Although Carlisle achieved governmental autonomy from Concord during the Revolutionary War, its telephone network was served completely out of the Concord central office until 1986. Every phone in Carlisle had a twisted pair of wires that went all the way to Concord center. Electromechanical switching equipment crammed both floors of the Concord central office.

In the early eighties, AT&T completed development of a state-of-the-art central office switch (called "5ESS"). This completely digital switch offered the potential for service we take for granted today, such as caller ID and call waiting, which would not be possible with electromechanical or electronic analog switches. Rather than replace the Concord electromechanical equipment with an analog switch, New England Telephone installed a 5ESS in Concord and a remote 5ESS in Carlisle in 1986. In terms of phone infrastructure, Carlisle had leapfrogged many larger metropolitan areas. These changes freed up an entire floor of Concord's central office after the electromechanical equipment was carted away. As a result, Carlisle phone service became somewhat autonomous. Our remote switch relied on the Concord switch only for billing and administrative functions.

In 1996, in order to get state-of-the-art Internet connectivity in Carlisle, I ordered ISDN service from NYNEX. One year later, NYNEX had become Bell Atlantic, we were switched to the 978 area code, and I still didn't have ISDN service.

Between 1996 and 1998, when Carlisle was planning and building its Town Hall, Bell Atlantic was planning an expansion of the adjacent central office building. Aesthetic consultations with Town Hall architects delayed the project. When their Carlisle facility expansion was completed, the 5ESS was also expanded to handle up to 4,000 lines, and several digital optical fibers replaced the waterlogged wires running to Concord. Shortly thereafter, I got my ISDN line. However, it turns out that Carlisle's 5ESS is not capable of handling ISDN circuits so my connection runs through a repeater in the Carlisle office all the way to Concord.

Today the state of the art for Internet connectivity is DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), which runs ten times faster than ISDN, so I recently investigated the possibility of upgrading to DSL. Residences must be within about two miles of a central office to get DSL service. Many Carlisle homes are within two miles of the central office in town center. However, there is no DSL equipment in the Carlisle central office! Concord's central office is filling back up with DSL equipment and other telephone switches owned by Bell Atlantic competitors. But because Concord's central office is 5 miles from Carlisle's, no Carlisle residents can connect to the DSL equipment there.

Many DSL providers mistakenly think they can offer DSL to Carlisleans. Even Bell Atlantic makes this mistake. This stems from the rather unusual situation of sharing exchanges with Concord. They assume that the 371 and 369 exchanges are served out of the Concord central office, which is partially true. Many providers, including Bell Atlantic, have DSL equipment installed in that office. They use the 5ESS's capability to measure the length of the copper line running to the telephone customer. If it's less than two miles they assume they can offer you DSL service. In the case of Carlisle residents, what they haven't realized is that the distance measurement was from the remote 5ESS in Carlisle center, not the 5ESS in Concord where all the DSL equipment resides.

Unfortunately, Carlisle residents will have to wait a while longer before the more advanced Internet connection technologies come our way.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito