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Family reaches settlement with Dartmouth over water contamination

By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent

April 19. 2017 8:45PM


HANOVER — Dartmouth College has reached a settlement with the Higgins family who said they suffered health problems from drinking well water contaminated by runoff from a site where the college once dumped animals used in scientific experiments.

The college issued a statement Wednesday saying it and the Higgins family “have reached a negotiated settlement of all claims related to contamination of the drinking water well at 9 Rennie Road.”

It said it will allow the family of Richard and Debbie Higgins “to move on with their lives in a new location.”

“We’re just happy that we are being able to move on,” Richard Higgins said Wednesday. “It’s been very tiresome for us and we’re just really happy to be moving on.”

The couple, who had the home customized for Deborah Higgins’ wheelchair many years ago and who raised a daughter, who is now in college, at the property first learned of the contamination in the fall of 2015.

“It just hit us like boom,” Richard Higgins said.

He said they are hoping to stay in Hanover, but it depends on if they can find a suitable building lot on which they can build a wheelchair accessible home for themselves.

Higgins would not comment on the details of the agreement.

Under the settlement, Dartmouth agreed to buy the Higgins’ home and provide additional compensation to them for the “emotional impacts they’ve suffered as a result of the contamination, to reflect their investment in necessary accommodations in their home.”

The college has also committed funds to a health maintenance trust fund for the family to use in their sole discretion for health and medical-related needs.

Dartmouth said Wednesday that it plans to continue to work on treatment and remediation of the Rennie Farm site, in conjunction with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

The Higgins revealed in Febuary 2016 that they were in mediation with the college after their water tested at 6 parts per billion of 1,4-dioxane, exceeding state standards of 3 parts per billion. The chemical was used in the animal experiments.

The Environmental Protection Agency classifies 1,4-dioxane as a probable human carcinogen and says exposure may cause damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys.

The lab animal dumping ground was used by Dartmouth’s medical school from 1960 to the mid-1970s and operated under a state license.

mpierce@newstote.com


Courts University Environment Health Hanover