TREMONT — The septic system for the Tremont Consolidated School either needs replacement or significant repairs.
The uncertainties are the cost, where the money is coming from and whether the system will be working properly when students return to classes in the fall.
School Principal Jandrea True told selectmen last week that the problem was discovered in January when resident Roger St. Amand was walking along a trail behind the school.
True said school officials at first tried an inexpensive fix that proved to be short-term.
“We were able to patch it until now,” True said.
At the end of May, the entire system was pumped and a video inspection of the sewer lines conducted. The inspection revealed that the 20-year-old system had not been installed properly. St. Amand, who owns the environmental consulting firm Atlantic Resource Company, was hired to help with determining the problem, True said. He is a Maine licensed site evaluator, Maine certified soil scientist and a Maine licensed professional forester.
“What we found was the field is not laid out as the plans depict it as being laid out,” True said.
Plans show the system was designed with four drainage fields, but only three were discovered. St. Amand, who also attended the June 5 selectmen’s meeting, said he believes the third drainage field is oversized to compensate for the lack of a fourth field.
The real issue, St. Amand maintains, is that a distribution box is not level. As a result, the effluent is flowing into only the two smaller fields, causing them to plug and fail.
More study is needed to determine exactly what needs to be done, St. Amand told selectmen. The system most likely is at the end of its lifespan, and a full replacement might be necessary.
“We’re going to have to put in a new septic system, probably,” St. Amand said. “It would need a little more inspection to determine if it’s worth keeping.”
Town Manager Dana Reed raised the question of whether school officials or town officials should take the lead in finding a solution.
“I’m happy to take the lead on this as long as you guys are okay with that,” True said.
Her offer was accepted. Reed agreed to provide assistance.
Reed said an engineer needs to determine the extent of the problem and develop an estimate of the cost.
“Then we have to find funding,” he said. “This can’t wait until the town meeting in May.”
Reed also pointed out that the septic system is on Acadia National Park property that was deeded to the town in the 1950s for “school purposes.” This raised questions about deed restrictions that could limit the school’s ability to install a new system. This week, park spokesman John Kelly said the entire septic system is on the deeded property and the park has no issues with replacement as long as all applicable federal and state standards are met. “We would be concerned about any impact on neighboring park property,” Kelly added.