PITTSTON — A technical error in a warrant article will delay a vote on spending town money to drill a new well to replace a private well contaminated with salt.

James Lothridge, the moderator of Wednesday’s special town meeting, made the announcement at the start of the meeting to about three dozen town residents who came to the Town Office to vote on the measure.

The second special town meeting has been rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19.

Under the regulations governing town meeting articles, Lothridge said, residents can vote only to reduce the amount of money listed in the article. They cannot vote to change where the money will come from.

As published, the warrant article sought authorization to appropriate $35,000 from excise tax surplus to pay for the costs of a replacement well and additional damages. Of that, $30,000 would be used to cover actual costs, and $5,000 would replenish the town’s contingency.

Selectman Greg Lumbert said according to the town’s audit report, no fund named excise tax surplus exists, and so no money can be appropriated from it.

Greg and Arlene Snow own property southwest of the town’s sand and salt shed on Route 27.

When a water test revealed excess salt in their well water, the Snows took their concern to town officials.

The elevated salt levels have caused corrosion to the plumbing throughout the house and have damaged appliances. The Snows say they are able to take only short showers on the advice of their doctor.

In the town’s subsequent investigation, officials learned from the state Department of Environmental Protection that in 1989 the town was required to stop the practice of storing road salt outside and to build a shed to store sand and salt.

After a site visit last year, the DEP recommended paving the area in front of the shed and cleaning some spilled salted sand. That work has been completed.

Now town officials are seeking authorization to spend the money to drill a new well in a location that their experts have identified to provide the Snows with water they can use.

Some town residents questioned the wisdom of proceeding with drilling if there’s no guarantee the new well won’t also be contaminated.

“We all know in life there’s no guarantees,” said Roger Linton, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “I don’t think we could have done this any other way.”

Larry Ireland, who lives in East Pittston, said the village underwent something similar in the early 1990s when 18 wells were contaminated by leaked gasoline.

Ireland said the drilling should take place.

“My point is we aren’t going to know if we’ll get a dry hole or a contaminated well water, but we have to drill a hole sooner or later,” he said, “and it may be cheaper the first time. We have to drill a well to see how far the contamination is moving.”

The Snows, he said, pay their taxes.

“We owe it to these people. Anyone who loses their well, it’s tough,” he said.

Because only the source of the money would be changed in the warrant, the town’s Budget Committee won’t have to meet again on the matter.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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