SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District is seeking a legal opinion regarding its continued use of a water storage tank located on land in Acadia National Park.
The 7,000 gallon tank off the Fernald Point Road was erected in the early 1900s on what then was private property, said Steve Kenney, the district manager. The tank first was owned by the privately held Southwest Harbor Water Company, which later was bought by the town and, in January, transferred to the newly formed water and sewer district.
Meanwhile, at some point, the property where the tank is located was transferred to Acadia National Park. Kenney said he contacted park officials about clearing a path from the road to the tank, a distance of about 300 feet. Kenney was surprised at the response.
“The park didn’t have record of the tank,” he said.
Kenney planned to sandblast and paint the inside and outside of the tank as part of badly needed maintenance. The park, however, threw a roadblock in front of those plans.
“They want us to remove the tank,” he said.
The park wants the riveted steel tank removed in a very labor-intensive manner to minimize the environmental impact. That would require using acetylene torches to cut the tank into manageable pieces and backpack it out to the road, Kenney said.
The park has proposed a compromise. According to an email to Kenney from Emily Seger Pagan, a land resource specialist with the park, park officials agree to construction of a tank closer to the road, “understanding there is no real alternative.” The existing tank and related pipes and lines would still have to be removed. Seger Pagan wrote that the trail could be opened up somewhat to facilitate removal, but no road can be cut.
The park’s proposal regarding a tank along the road creates other problems for the district. For one thing, the new tank would have to be a raised tank to provide water pressure whereas the existing tank, which sits on higher ground, is at a sufficient elevation, Kenney said. The park also requires a buffering strip of trees to screen the view of the new tank, a requirement that Kenney said is “not realistic” given the height of the tank.
The district’s preference is to continue to use the existing tank, and the district trustees are having an attorney look into the prescriptive rights regarding its use, Kenney said. Prescriptive rights, also known as implied easements, are rights to use another’s property that have been acquired by longtime use.