The wastewater treatment system at Mount Desert Island High School includes a 50,000-gallon tank, where solids are collected. Liquids move out of the tank and into these ponds. In the summer, liquid from the ponds is sprayed into the woods nearby ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Permit renewal sought for ‘gray water’ system



BAR HARBOR — As it does every five years, Mount Desert Island High School is applying to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for renewal of its permit to spray so-called “gray water” into the woods on the hill to the east of the school building.

Since the school opened in 1968, its sewage has been pumped into a 50,000-gallon tank that collects the solid materials. The liquid then goes into three ponds located beside the narrow dirt road that leads to the athletic practice field.

For 36 years, gray water from the ponds was periodically sprayed onto the high school’s athletic fields. Starting in 2004, the DEP has required that the spraying be done in the woods.

The high school’s wastewater discharge permit allows spraying between April 15 and November 15 each year. But Butch Bracy, the high school’s facilities manager, said he has never sprayed in April and rarely in early May.

“I may start the last week in May, and I’m usually done by the second week in August,” he said.

By the time the liquid is sprayed, it is so highly diluted that it is nearly entirely water, Bracy said. Nevertheless, signs are posted on all of the paths and trails leading into the 3.85-acre spray area notifying people to stay out during the spraying season. That is a condition of the permit.

Bracy said that in all the years the spraying has been going on, he has received only one complaint. That was from someone whose dog had gotten away from home and wandered into the spray area. Bracy said the dog was fine.

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]

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