Seeping Illness in Tiverton
The tentative deal between Southern Union and residents of Tiverton concerning contaminated soil has fallen through. It’s a travesty that those who live in the Bay Street area should spend so long in limbo, as the article puts it, but this is particularly disconcerting:
In the end, Southern Union could not strike a deal with the town. The town’s lawyer, Andrew Teitz, told Torres in October that Tiverton could not agree to hold Southern Union harmless as long as the utility continued to seek money from the town, claiming the town was at fault for allowing the contamination.
Teitz said that the pipes, which were put down with a life expectancy of 80 to 100 years, already are starting to fail.
The Town Council is worried that the fire district’s customers, about 1,500 to 2,000 town residents living north of Route 24, may have to shoulder an estimated $2-million liability for replacing the water lines, Teitz said.
And he said that some settlement discussions between the plaintiffs and Southern Union raise the possibility that a future DEM director may hold the town liable for millions of dollars in costs for cleaning up toxic soil under public roads.
It sounds to me as if Southern Union might have been spooked by the prospect of financial responsibility for the replacement of a substantial amount of utility and road infrastructure. As unsettling as the idea may be of requiring just a section of the town (the poorer section) to cover a multimillion-dollar construction project, the knowledge of contaminated soil surrounding failing pipes — serving residents who are forbidden to sell their properties — is worse.
Somebody better start compromising soon, particularly considering that nobody currently engaged in the game of chicken appears likely to face health repercussions from its continuation.