Better data needed for school septic

TREMONT — School officials need more data on the Tremont Consolidated School’s water use before they can move ahead with repair or replacement of its septic system, but the project is one of several driving a significant increase from last year’s budget.

Principal Jandrea True presented the tentative budget for the coming year at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Without the septic system costs, the school budget request, with proposed additions, stands at $2,974,155, almost a 6 percent increase from last year.

Superintendent Marc Gousse said the septic system is at its life expectancy and a new system could cost up to $150,000, depending on a final design flow, which is determined by the state.

The original system was installed in 1999, when the school served a slightly bigger population, according to Roger St. Amand of Atlantic Resource Co., the site evaluator working on the project.

St. Amand discovered the system was failing last winter when he noticed gray water. He brought it to the town’s attention, and then-Town Manager Dana Reed notified True.

“We couldn’t do very much at the time because the ground was frozen,” she said Wednesday.

Last June, St. Amand and civil engineer Greg Johnston of G.S. Johnston, who also is working on the project, excavated the disposal field to determine its size.

They discovered that the water flow split into three different fields. The distribution box was out of level, though, channeling water only into one of the fields, which is what led to its failure.

Since then, St. Amand was able to find the field’s final design plan but not the permit, which contains valuable information like design flow and the number of people the system is meant to serve.

St. Amand said it’s “not that uncommon” for such documents to get lost over the years. The town office has since moved to another location, and the state “doesn’t have the best system” for tracking such permits.

Without the original permit, the school water meters could provide data on current water usage. The state requires at least a year’s worth of data, but St. Amand was able to access and collect information only for last November and December.

Based on those records, the school’s average flows were around 650 gallons a day, and there were half a dozen peaks at 700-800 gallons.

Another way to estimate water usage is to go with the state’s record for water flow of a school of that size, which, according to St. Amand, is about 2,600 gallons per day.

At Monday’s meeting, Selectman Kevin Buck asked whether there was enough territory for expansion on the school property to potentially accommodate a new system.

St. Amand said they found an area just below the existing fields that could be used, which would save the town from purchasing new property.

One alternative to constructing a new disposal field, according to St. Amand, is to install a partial system that could compensate for the one that’s failed and continue using the other two fields for as long as possible.

The school, which has a population of 130 students, is currently relying on the remaining two fields. St. Amand and Johnston are monitoring them but said they can’t predict when those will fail as well.

Plans to increase internal storage space at the school and partially fence the parking area, as well as provide funding for the Homework Club and athletics, account for some of the rest of the budget increase.

The School Committee is set to continue discussing the budget on Thursday at 4 p.m.



Henriette Chacar

Henriette Chacar

Former Islander reporter Henriette Chacar covered the towns of Southwest Harbor and Tremont.
Henriette Chacar

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