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Town water in the works for Madaket BY PETER B. BRACE INDEPENDENT WRITER

Madaket resident Scott White said he would be one of the first to tie into the public water main that the town is proposing to run to Madaket this fall, regardless of the cost, for clean, fresh, salt-free water.

For those who live in the West End, on Hither Creek, Madaket Harbor or the ocean, saltwater intrusion — sea water pushing through sandy soils into the island's aquifer — poses a health hazard and ruins the taste of well water.

"A lot of people don't have to deal with that in Madaket," said White, who lives on Little Neck Road. "If you're on the other side of Madaket Road, you're on the meniscus (top of the aquifer lens), but it is a huge issue for us. Those of us who live in those areas, having access to municipal water, I've always said the moment it comes by, I'll write the check, I don't care what the dollar value is, it's very important to me."

For the Nantucket Fire Department, it could translate into quicker response times and easier access to more water for fighting fires on the island's west end.


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Extending town water to Madaket for health and firefighting reasons has been a goal of the town over the last 10 to 15 years. Municipal water would also aid in the operation of a wastewater treatment facility for Madaket, should the town decide to build one, although Department of Public Works Superintendent Jeff Willett said that project is at least 10 or 12 years away if the town decides to go forward.

The developers of the proposed Island Racquet Club at 5 South Cambridge St. at one time offered to pay for the extension of town water to Madaket so they could provide potable water for their members and adequate pressure for their fire protection, but they have since changed their water supply plan to drilling two wells on the property.

Reviving its intention of running a public water main 7,100 feet from Warrens Landing Road to the Madaket Fire Station and ending it at a fire hydrant for roughly $600,000, the Board of Health, the Wannacomet Water Company and the Planning Department presented an overview of the project at a meeting on April 16 to mostly Madaket residents. Despite assurances that the town would hold several more public hearings for residents to air their concerns and get their questions answered, the watering of Madaket also met resistance.

Opponents, including Clark Whitcomb of 19 Starbuck Road, said it seemed the proposal was being rushed along without his being able to review it. Whitcomb worried aloud over town water equaling the potential of increased build-out of Madaket's vacant and underdeveloped lots, but also commended town officials for holding the meeting and promising future public information sessions.

"I'm very comforted, personally, that there will be hearings and that this will be thrashed out, and you beat the bushes to get people here and that some of the hearings will be held during the summer because we're probably 90 percent seasonal out there, and I've heard from a lot of seasonal people and they're concerned and they think that something is being stuffed down their throats," said Whitcomb.

It is the general fear-of-growth feeling of Madaket, with the Madaket Area Plan recommending against a public water main, that bringing town water out to this westernmost island village would eliminate the mandatory septic system-water well separation distance of 150 feet as property owners abandoned their wells and maxed out the development of their lots. Attempting to assuage maximum build-out anxieties, Planning Director Andrew Vorce said that the additional 483 bedrooms allowed by zoning in Madaket could be capped at that number and that given town water, there are only 28 vacant lots with limited development potential.

"What we found is that basically the existing zoning fairly well matches the majority of the districts for lot size," said Vorce. "Where the mismatch comes is in the existing ground cover ratios."

In answer to that, Vorce and the town are proposing zoning changes to further limit ground cover ratios to strictly limit growth in Madaket as a result of town water that could be adopted at a special Town Meeting in the fall.

"Even though structures would be allowed to connect to municipal water service, they would still be limited to one bedroom per 10,000 square feet," said Health Inspector Richard Ray. "I believe if we go within this nitrogen-sensitive area, which is already documented, you will see very little over-nutrification of these water bodies. I'm not going to say you're not going to see any build-out, but it's going to be an extremely marginal build-out."

Yet another build-out control the town is anxiously awaiting is the long overdue estuaries report for Madaket Harbor and Hither Creek that contains a total maximum daily load number. This TMDL number is the amount a given body of water can absorb while conforming to public health codes. I

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