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AYER — The Board of Selectmen has retained a firm that specializes in groundwater quality to ensure construction at the so-called “Guilford land” doesn’t affect nearby town wells at Spectacle Pond.

The contract, which is for up to $18,400 with the Westford-based firm Geo Insight, was approved June 19 by the board. It calls for installation and monitoring of at least six testing wells near the construction site.

Though the selectmen have questions about the number and location of wells, Department of Public Works Superintendent Michael Madigan advised against a delay and urged the board to approve the contract that night.

“There is a window of time to have them come on, put in the wells and start the samples,” he said. “If you don’t do it, you’re going to be behind, and you’ll never catch up.”

At issue is that Pan Am Railways — previously known as Guilford — is reportedly looking to establish a 750-car parking facility in close proximity to the town’s wells at Spectacle Pond. Local officials fear that plan could adversely affect town water and are looking to get baseline samples before construction begins.

A similar construction plan from Guilford in the late 1990s led to litigation between the town and railroad in 2000. That action ended with a consent decree specifying that Guilford is “interstate commerce” and as such its plans are outside the town’s jurisdiction to regulate. Though the decree was followed by a lull in activity, site work on the property began last December.

Shortly thereafter, Madigan suggested the town establish monitoring wells up- and down-gradient of the project, so any effect on groundwater can be monitored.

The contract presented by Madigan recommends four wells down gradient and another two up gradient, which will provide a frame of reference on the project’s effect on the water.

Selectman Cornelius “Connie” Sullivan said he’s concerned about the number of up-gradient wells. He doesn’t want to limit the scope of testing before the professionals are brought in, he said.

The contract is the result of a professional opinion, said Madigan, but he agreed after some discussion to include language for adding additional up-gradient wells, if needed.

The board also resolved to contact Pan Am one more time seeking permission to install wells on the railroad’s property. Similar requests have been made since January without getting a response. Madigan suggested the company be given a month to respond before the town seeks alternative sites nearby.

Overall, the need for action is paramount, said Madigan.

“If we continue to beat this to death, the train will leave the station,” he said.

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