SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The water treatment plant here now won’t be back in operation until Friday afternoon or evening, according to Steve Kenney, manager of the Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District.
The plant was expected to be online late Thursday but some of the parts needed to make repairs didn’t arrive on Wednesday. The parts were delivered Thursday morning and work began to repair a pipe that ruptured Monday afternoon inside the facility.
To keep the public water system operating, the district hired a trucking company to bring water from Bar Harbor to the plant. Two 8,000 gallon tankers began shuttling between the two towns on Tuesday morning and deliveries are expected to continue through the afternoon Friday, Kenney said.
The municipal water supply in Bar Harbor, unlike in Southwest Harbor, is fluoridated. Kenney said water customers in Southwest Harbor should be aware of this fact.
In the meantime, officials are asking customers to conserve water whenever possible.
According to Steve Kenney, manager of the Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District, excess pressure caused a pipe inside the treatment plant to break sometime around 5 p.m. Monday, flooding the floor of the facility with between 3,000 and 4,000 gallons of water. The rupture is believed to have occurred as the result of an electric power surge that caused a pump bringing water from Long Pond to the plant for treatment to malfunction.
Because parts to repair the damage had to be ordered, the decision was made to hire Splash Trucking Company of Turner to transport water to the plant to keep the water system operating until repairs are made.
Kenney said Wednesday morning that he expects the plant to be fully functional sometime late Thursday. But that deadline was pushed back 24 hours on Thursday.
Fortunately, the heaviest use of the public water system is in the summer. Still, Kenney said, about 220,000 gallons per day are used at this time of the year. The water being trucked in is not enough to completely keep up with that demand, he said.
On a normal day, reserves in the town’s standpipe fall three feet without replenishment from the lake. By using trucks, the level is only falling a foot a day.
One theory is that a motor vehicle accident late Sunday that snapped a utility pole and disrupted electrical service could have caused the pump to malfunction and pressure to increase to the pipe’s breaking point, Kenney said. The plant shut down and an alarm sounded around 1 a.m. Monday, about the same time crews were restoring power. Other issues later were discovered.
“It was a series of events, we don’t have all the facts,” Kenney said.
Splash Trucking sent two tankers, each holding 8,000 gallons, to Southwest Harbor. They began making the trip to and from Bar Harbor on Tuesday morning and worked into the evening. They resumed at 6 a.m. Wednesday and expected to work until about 9 p.m. Kenney said he has scheduled them to work through the day Thursday.
The trucks are filling up at a fire hydrant near the Kebo Golf Course in Bar Harbor. It takes 20 minutes to fill a truck and another 20 minutes to unload at the treatment plant, a driver said. The water is then put through the treatment process and pumped to the standpipe on Harbor Ridge.
Kenney said each truck is costing the district about $800 a day. He did not know how much the town of Bar Harbor was charging for the water.
Town Manager Don Lagrange said a similar problem occurred at the plant about 10 years ago. Had a pressure relief valve been installed at that time, the incident Monday most likely would not have occurred, he said. Kenney said the valve is being installed during repairs.
Jack Martel, the town’s fire chief, said he is not overly concerned about the water supply issue. There is an adequate supply in the standpipe to handle an average fire. If a large blaze were to break out, the fire department would then rely on a shuttle system using tankers from Southwest Harbor and other departments on the island as they do now in areas not on public water. He said the chiefs of the other departments know about the water issue.
In January, the town’s water and sewer departments and their assets were transferred to the water and sewer district as approved by voters in November.