Water, sewer rates flat

BAR HARBOR — For the fifth year in a row, no rate increase is planned for water or sewer rates here. The proposed water and sewer budgets for fiscal year 2019 were introduced at last week’s town council meeting, and will be open for discussion at a public hearing on Aug. 7.

Town Finance Director Stan Harmon and Public Works Director Chip Reeves introduced the two budgets at the July 17 town council meeting. For the sewer budget, Harmon and Reeves project a slight increase in operating cost, but not enough for it to affect the cost to consumers.

For both the water and sewer systems, Reeves anticipates the need for upgrades in the near future. He said at the town council meeting that it has been 20 years since the last sewer upgrade.

“So a lot of the equipment that, I hate to say, I was around for when they put it in,” Reeves said, “is getting to the age where we do have to make some replacements.” Likewise, the public water infrastructure is aging, with some parts dating back to 1912. Both systems will need to increase their storage capacity to handle more gallons.

The goal of the Bar Harbor Sewer Division is to work toward compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) mandate that all coastal communities treat 100 percent of their wastewater. This means coastal towns and cities need sewer systems equipped to treat all wastewater, so wastewater does not overflow into the ocean untreated. Bar Harbor has consistently treated 98 percent of its wastewater in the past 20 years, and is working on improving that percentage. Over the past two years, according to a recently published report, Bar Harbor has “treated close to 100 percent of our total flow,” which shows a marked improvement. This is due to continual repairs and upgrades to the facility, and despite increasing rain events.

The Bar Harbor Water Division provides water to 4,625 town residents through 1,850 service connections, according to its report. The town’s water source, Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, is considered to have “exceptional water quality” and therefore waived from filtration requirements. It is, however, treated with chlorine, fluoride and lime for pH adjustment.

To plan for future upgrades to the sewer system, the public works department is in the process of selecting and hiring an engineer, Reeves said, which can be done on the existing budget. To upgrade the water system, the public works department is developing a prioritized plan thanks in part to a grant received from the Drinking Water Program (DWP). Harmon said he anticipates a rate increase for water in the next fiscal year.

The public is invited to comment on the water and sewer budgets at a public hearing on Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building. Both plans are available for review at the town clerk’s office, or on the town of Bar Harbor’s website under the public works section.

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