Water treatment pilot on horizon 

SOUTHWEST HARBOR— A recent notice that went out to residents via mail regarding trihalomethanes is not highlighting a new problem with the town’s water supply; it is just a new way of delivering the news.  

According to Water and Sewer District Manager Steve Kenney, the state now requires notices to go out in the mail versus being posted as a public notice in the newspaper.  

“Now that we’ve mailed them out, people are noticing,” said Kenney in a conversation with the Islander earlier this week. “It’s been an issue forever as far as drinking water goes. People have been exposed to this for a long time.” 

In fact, the creation of THMs has been an ongoing problem since the town began putting chlorine in the water supply. Trihalomethanes are created when chlorine meets organic matter in the water. Chlorine is mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency for public drinking water supplies.  

A recent pilot study, conducted by Blueleaf Inc., was ended early because there were no conclusive results from any of the methods used to remove the THMs.  

“I’ve talked to other water suppliers and they all have the same problem,” Kenney said in a meeting of the district’s board of directors on Aug. 21. “We’re under mandate to resolve this by the state. We’ve been fighting this battle for two years now. The water’s safe to drink.” 

During that meeting, the board of directors voted in favor of trying chloramines in the water supply. According to Kenney, chloramines are used in the water supply for Bar Harbor and Portland.  

“There will be no THMs at all,” he told the board during a discussion regarding chloramine.  

“As soon as the state gives us the OK to start doing some pilots on it, we can,” he said earlier this week.  

A reading of the level of THMs in the water supply is required each quarter. One of the notices sent to residents stated the district recorded the reading in the wrong month of the quarter.  

“There’s nothing that we can do right now to change anything,” said Kenney, explaining some notices require immediate action and others are notification of a situation that exists but cannot be changed. “In our business, it’s standard to not wait until the last minute. It takes two to three weeks to get results back.” 

Violations are issued to a municipality if readings are above 80 ppb for more than four quarters. Often, it takes a period of time to realize that and notify a town. 

“Our violations are over a quarter and a half old by the time we get them,” said Kenney. “We’re right around 80 all the time. We’ve been keeping the state up to date with this. They’ve been working with us through the whole process.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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