AYER -- Selectmen adopted a position piece drafted by Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand regarding the U.S. Army's proposed ongoing treatment plans for an underground arsenic plume of disputed origin. The Army claims the arsenic is naturally occurring in the area, a byproduct of granite deposits.

But town officials and the grassroots People of Ayer Concerned for the Environment (PACE) have dogged the Army, challenging that the now closed Shepley's Hill Landfill on the former Fort Devens Army base clocks extraordinarily high arsenic readings aside and under the former Army dumping grounds. The town's official stance presses the Army to pay the town's legal expenses for drafting more stringent land-use regulations to prohibit private wells in the affected area of town to prevent consumption of the contaminated ground water and movement of the plume underground.

Pontbriand's letter also seeks "permanent, dedicated technical support" for the town, with all benefits and post-employment expenses shouldered by the Army.

The public has until Friday at 5 p.m. to file responses to the Army's proposed treatment plans at: Army BRAC Environmental Coordinator, 30 Quebec Street (Unit 100), Devens, MA 01434-4479. Responses may also be filed via email to robert.j.simeone.civ@mail.mil. The Army's proposed treatment plan can be viewed on the town's website www.ayer.ma.us.

Pontbriand said the town considers the long- and short-term impacts of the arsenic to be "extremely serious."