East Lyme — Seven households in a cluster off Route 1 next to Latimer Brook have been told by the state Department of Environmental Protection not to drink or cook with water from the private wells that serve the homes until the water is tested.
Ledge Light Health District officials will test the wells Monday to determine whether any of the approximately 9,000 gallons of diesel fuel that spilled from the tanker truck involved in Friday's accident on a nearby stretch of Interstate 95 reached the wells, said Ron Wofford, senior emergency response coordinator for the DEP.
Residents of the houses in the complex were told to use bottled water in the meantime.
The cluster consists of two single-family homes and a restored 1800s gristmill converted into five apartments. The homes are served by two shallow wells, Wofford said. All three houses are owned by Greg Stratos of Waterford, who rents the properties.
“Late yesterday afternoon I was called, and I tried to get there as soon as possible to shut the water off,” Stratos said Saturday. “Late last night I went back and turned the water back on just so they could flush the toilets. We were really concerned.”
He instructed his tenants to purchase bottled water and deduct the expense from their rent, or to let him know if they would need him to deliver the bottled water. One of the families had already been using bottled water before the accident.
Initial indications from DEP crews on site are that the spilled fuel did not reach the wells, but they won't be sure until the test results are known, Stratos said.
Teresa Anderson and her family live in one of the single-family homes. She said they arrived home at about 10 p.m. last night with bottled water, after spending several hours at a friend's house because of the heavy traffic tie-ups caused by the accident.
“We were told to buy bottled water and not to use the well water for drinking or cooking, but that we could shower in it,” said Anderson, standing in the doorway Saturday morning with her 5-year-old daughter, Caitlyn.
The yard and driveway area of the three houses have been used as a staging area for some of the equipment being used by the DEP and its contractors to retrieve fuel from Latimer Brook. A small crew remained at the scene overnight to periodically check the containment booms set up in the brook to capture the spilled fuel.
“The guys were great,” Stratos said. “If you saw the brook yesterday, it was pretty scary, because the water was actually blue. These guys are just so into getting every drop.”
The town's public water supply was not in any danger from the spilled fuel, because its wells are located on the other side of town in a different aquifer, said Michael Giannattasio, East Lyme public works director.