Discussion of public system dead in the water

TREMONT — A conversation at the Board of Selectmen about exploring a public water and sewer system for the town was over before it got started.

Town Manager Chris Saunders asked selectmen Tuesday how serious they are about a public water and sewer system. He said any such system would likely cost the town $15–20 million dollars.

“That’s going to be a huge debt that’s going to be hanging over the town for decades,” Saunders added.

In response, Selectman Howdy Goodwin moved to have the town stop researching the feasibility of a public water and sewer system for the town. All five selectmen supported his motion.

After several wells tested positive for contaminated water in the last decade, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection suggested a public water supply may be the best solution.

Saunders recently met with Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District Manager Steve Kenney to find out more about connecting to that town’s public system.

Another option would be to establish a public system through the Tremont school. Either option would only service a portion of the town, specifically in Bernard, Bass Harbor and the area around the school.

In 2008, the state’s DEP tested 14 private wells in the neighborhood of Flat Iron Road and Harbor Drive. Eight of those wells showed concentrations of manganese, iron and arsenic that exceeded recommended levels. Contamination was attributed to the landfill across from the town office that has been closed since 1996.

Bottled water was one solution to the contaminated water, and the DEP’s Maine Landfill Closure and Remediation Program contributed to the cost of that fix until 2016.

Water filtration systems have also been installed in several properties where contamination was confirmed. Last year, six water filtration systems were installed in affected properties, including one at the Town Office for a cost of $12,000.

The previous year the town invested $30,000 in water filtration systems and was reimbursed a little more than half that amount by the state program.

Reimbursement depends on several factors and some of the town’s contaminated properties have not qualified. In those cases, remediation or corrective measures are the onus of the town.

In the most recently approved budget, water system maintenance — upkeep of the filtration systems — was about a $5,000 per year item.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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