Tony Smith, Mount Desert Public Works director. Smith hopes that longstanding stormwater drainage issues in the Sylvan neighborhood will finally be resolved. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Plan aims to stop ‘torrents of water’

MOUNT DESERT — The town will pay up to $44,000 for an engineering plan to resolve longstanding stormwater drainage problems in the Sylvan neighborhood in Northeast Harbor.

Public Works Director Tony Smith said in an Aug. 3 memo to Town Manager Durlin Lunt that the existing underground drainage system is “very limited and in poor shape [and] discharge points are on private property and can be very easily plugged.”

“Over the years, I have had reports of ‘torrents of water’ flowing down Sylvan Road with nowhere to go, flooding on Spruce Road due to the blocking of [surface] water by the filling of natural drainage ways on adjacent properties, and water in people’s basements being dumped into the sanitary sewer via sump pumps and cellar drains,” Smith said.

Pine Road is the other street in the Sylvan neighborhood, which is off Millbrook Road.

Smith was the on-site engineer for the reconstruction of the sanitary sewer system in the Sylvan neighborhood in 1989. He said town officials at the time told him that if any sump pumps or cellar drains were found, they should not be connected to the new sanitary sewer pipes.

Smith said the owner of one home that had a cellar drain was advised to install a sump pump to pump the water from the basement to the lawn. He said that was not a very good solution. But even before the sump pump could be installed, about three feet of water backed up into the basement. The water came within inches of covering an architect’s workbench that held what Smith described as “a scale model of a very expensive building that was being built for presentation to a client.”

He said the near loss of the model emphasized the need for a permanent solution.

“I told this to the town officials and was told to reconnect the cellar drain to the sanitary sewer and [that] the drainage issue ‘will be addressed at another time,’” Smith said in his memo to Lunt.

“We are now 28 years later, and I am recommending that we are ‘at another time’ and need to address the water problem now.”

The selectmen on Aug. 7 approved the payment of up to $44,000 to engineering firm CES Inc. to conduct a topographic survey and hydraulic evaluation of the Sylvan neighborhood and to design a solution to the drainage problem. The selectmen also agreed to retain the Eaton Peabody law firm to handle any legal work associated with the survey and design project at a cost of up to $5,000.

Smith said CES’s design work should be completed in time to solicit construction bids for town officials to consider as part of the budget preparation process for next fiscal year.

“If approved, this would allow us to go to town meeting in May 2018 with a true bid price for … consideration of funding by voters,” Smith said. “If the project and funding are approved, I anticipate a 2018-2019 construction season.”


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]
Dick Broom

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