Cavendish Town Manager flushes water lines, Select Board punts School Board appointment back to GMUSD

By Cara Philbin
©2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

On Monday, Cavendish’s new manager updated the Select Board on his efforts to stabilize the town’s water practices, telling the Telegraph that “everybody’s water should be back to normal by the time the paper comes out.”

Cavendish Select board meeting on Monday night Photo by Cara Philbin

Richard Chambers says he has been working to tighten Cavendish’s drinking water procedures, after elevated levels of manganese were detected in 2022 but not communicated to town officials until 2023.

According to Chambers, later results “brought us back into compliance” and that “this wasn’t an ongoing issue where we had to change everything that we were doing.” He says healthy water systems require “regularly flushing the water lines,” to keep minerals and other substances from building up. “We just needed to get back to what we should be doing right.”

While flushing water lines can help prevent harmful elevations of certain toxins, Chambers readily admits he is “not sure if it will solve the issue entirely,” and that Cavendish should be engaging in other preventative health measures. “We have had the water filter media changed out and the well cleaned,” he said, but is similarly unsure whether the system requires more fundamental updates, like new water lines. “We have not dug that deeply, though I’ve seen older lines that are just as good as the newer ones.”

Chambers may not have all the answers, but he is trying. Less than a month into the job, he took the initiative to reach out to the Cavendish resident who addressed the water issue at the May select board meeting. He then invited her to a discussion with the town’s water operators.

“Most people don’t know much about water and sewer, and it’s helpful to understand what those guys are doing,” he told the Telegraph. “The more information people have, the better it is.”

But Chambers also says he has heard “nothing more” and that Cavendish does not plan to pursue an explanation about why the town was not notified about the elevated manganese levels until February or March of 2023, even though it is “very unusual” that the testing lab results did not trigger a notice.

When asked what this communication breakdown may mean for future clean water practices, Chambers told the Telegraph, “We’re kind of moving on now. Wish I had a better answer for you” and that a state website with town water data and a consumer confidence report “should be available in the next week or so.”

The Select Board also held a brief discussion on the recent upheaval on the Green Mountain Unified School District Board, in which Cavendish members Dennis Reilly and Kate Lamphere resigned over when it appeared a majority of the board voted to keep the name of the GM team, which some consider offensive, during a confusing vote on a highly charged issue. Though Lamphere has since rescinded her resignation and has returned to the board, there was a question on who has the authority to appoint a replacement for Reilly. The Select Board did not seem eager to wade into the issue.

“I don’t believe, by Vermont state statutes, that the Select Board does that anymore, I think it is up to the School Board to do that,” said Chambers. “I didn’t put it on our agenda because we probably wouldn’t do anything until they move to appoint someone.”

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