The Keene Sentinel has run a front-page story regarding the state of NH lawsuit against Citgo and Exxon-Mobil. The story prominently featured Richmond's very own 4-Corners area as one of the sites of contamination.
The contamination occurred over a decade ago when the old tanks at 4-corners leaked gasoline into the groundwater. Gasoline at that time contained an additive called MTBE - which was supposed to help reduce vehicle emissions. Of course the law of unforeseen circumstances meant that this additive which was supposed to save the environment ended up being a carcinogen that easily contaminates groundwater.
But the contamination of the groundwater at 4-corners is old news. Most everyone around here knows about it. I've even heard rumors back in the day that the Richmond Fire Department is not allowed to fill up their tanker trucks because if they used the contaminated water to put out fires they would be spreading the contamination. The Sentinel article incorrectly stated there were no longer gas tanks at 4-corners. The truth is that new tanks were installed, but then last year the pumps were taken out. The new tanks are not leaking - that problem has been solved, but the pollution remains in the water until it is cleaned up.
In August, I visited the Four Corners Store and several surrounding homes in the town of Richmond. It is called the Four Corners Store because it is at a rural crossroad, like so many in America, and takes up one of the four corners. Common sense is very pervasive in New Hampshire. Mr. and Mrs. Stickles are the store's proprietors. When they purchased that country store a few years ago, they believed the MTBE contamination problem had been solved. They do have new underground storage tanks and are completely in compliance with the law. Unfortunately, the MTBE plume from years ago still persists. A number of the nearby homes are having their wells polluted. It has contaminated a number of homes near the Four Corners Store. I met with the owners of the store and visited those homes. The Goulas and the Frampton families were kind enough to invite me into their homes. They showed me the treatment systems that had been installed by the State. They shared their concerns about their health and their children's health. At one of the homes lives a young couple with small children. First and foremost, they are worried about the long-term health impacts on their children. They told me about the daily inconveniences of having to deal with this contamination in their wells. They were told the water was safe for showers; however, showers should only be with cold water, limited to 10 minutes, and well ventilated. That is what they were told. So take a cold shower and make sure it is well ventilated.
Last year the NHDES estimated that the total remedial action at this site would cost $1.25M total. The funds will come from various government programs and from the lawsuit against the oil companies. Of course that doesn't change the fact that the water is still contaminated.