SHIRLEY -- A property owner fixing up an old house on Horse Pond Road told the Board of Health at its meeting Monday night that cost control was his primary concern when he initially did not comply with orders associated with a well on the property that provides drinking water.
"The issue is cost," Shawn Hillman said.
"We get it, but our job is your safety," member Jackie Esielionis responded.
The bone of contention, which landed this case in court, is the distance of the well from the septic system, which must be at least 50 feet to ensure that wastewater doesn't contaminate drinking water.
If not, there are options the owner can pursue, such as obtaining a variance, but as health board members explained, it's up to the applicant to provide backup documentation.
In this instance, tests showed bacteria in the well water when samples were taken, but then it was "shocked," Hillman said, while a second sample taken from the kitchen sink, which he said is the second point from the pump, was clear.
The question then becomes, how far is the well from the septic system? "We need documentation from you" to establish that, Esielionis said.
"I know it costs money, but we have to have it," Chairman Joseph Howlett added. "Without that, we won't be voting on the variance" Hillman is asking for, he said.
Records indicate the well was located under the house, Esielionis told a reporter, but Hillman has said that was an old well, no longer in use, and that a new one was later installed elsewhere on the property. He has not yet produced documents showing its location, however.
As discussion continued, Hillman noted that he did not file a deed restriction that would limit the house to two bedrooms, as the board apparently expected he would. Asked why not, he said the town's health agent, Ira Grossman, of Nashoba Associated Boards of Health, told him not to.
"He said it can't be done," Hillman said.
Member Donald Farrar posited that Grossman's concern was meeting an upcoming court date, which Farrar suggested postponing "for a week or so," to get paperwork together.
"I was supposed to come here ... with a clear water sample," Hillman said, citing the judge's instructions.
But the board still needs verification of the well location. "Get a well guy out to locate it," and the board will ask Grossman to get the court hearing postponed, Howlett said.
"We can reconvene if necessary to get this resolved," Esielionis said. It may be that the well to septic system gap is sufficient, but if not, a variance will be required.
They discussed strategies that might solve the problem if the well does turn out to be too close to the septic system, such as "sleeving," with the pipes sealed at each end.
Hillman said he could do that. "I don't mind doing labor, I just don't want to throw money away on inspections for a variance I can't get," he said.
Either way, the starting point is the same. Referring to the Board of Health notice sent to Hillman that enumerated the required steps, Howlett advised him to "take care of numbers two and three ... and then you'll know what needs to be done."
"If you do your part, we'll do ours," he said.