Campground septic woes may aid town

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Acadia National Park’s need to replace the sewage treatment system at Seawall Campground plus Southwest Harbor’s desire to extend its sewer line out Seawall Road could equal an opportunity for both parties.

The town passed up an opportunity to join with the park in extending the sewer line to the campground about a dozen years ago. But town officials are now expressing interest in such a project.

“It would add a lot of growth potential to the town,” said Town Manager Don Lagrange.

The town’s existing sewer line out Seawall Road stops at Mansell Lane. Extending it roughly 1.4 miles to the campground would open up more of the road to development. And if the park is able to pick up a significant portion of the estimated cost of about $1.2 million, that would be even better, Lagrange said.

Keith Johnston, Acadia’s chief of facilities maintenance, said he is open to discussing a joint project with the town.

“We had written off trying to open the conversation with the town because it went south before. But if they are interested, we are more than happy to go down that road,” he said.

The park needs to replace the sewage system at the campground because of an “improvement” that was made when the current system was installed.

“It basically eliminated the inflow and infiltration of groundwater into the system, which is usually a good thing so that you’re only treating sewage,” Johnston said. “But the unintended consequence was that the water table rose enough that it’s affecting the functioning of the system. The two pumps run nearly continually, and we have to rebuild one every year.”

Johnston said that if the park isn’t able to tie in to the town’s sewer system, “We probably would build a sand mound pre-treatment system that’s higher in elevation, to get it out of the water table.”

He said the preliminary estimated cost of that is between $800,000 and $1 million. Construction is tentatively slated for 2016.

Lagrange said an extension of the town’s sewer line would “open up a lot of areas” between Mansell Lane and the campground.

“There are a lot of wetlands in those areas, and some people may have a tough time getting approval for a replacement septic system if their system fails,” he said. “And there are some lands that are marginal as far as being able to put in a system at all.”

Extension of the Seawall Road sewer line in cooperation with the national park might enable the town to undertake other needed improvements, Mr. Lagrange said.

“We have a lot of bike traffic on Seawall Road, and we’ve got to put a bike lane from Manset Corner to the park,” he said. “When you take a corner and come onto a bike and there’s not much shoulder, it’s dangerous. We need to promote safe passage; end of story.”

Lagrange said the town also needs to replace a water line from Kings Lane to Seawall and another line from Manset Corner to Mansell Lane. He said a sidewalk between Mansell Lane and Main Street also is needed, especially for children who want to walk to school.

“I think it would be tremendous for Seawall Road to be safer to use and to have sewer and water utilities,” Lagrange said. “I think that’s a benefit to the town and to the park.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]