Editorial: Underground connections

Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.

That lesson is rearing its head as Tremont selectmen continue to wrestle with what to do about contaminated well water in some parts of the town. Groundwater flows freely across boundary lines. If a water well is too close to a neighbor’s septic system, to salt storage or to a former landfill, the water will be unsafe to drink.

It’s a cycle of salts, at the moment, a system that requires a lot of input. Salt is stored in town facilities and used on the roads. In turn, tons of salt are also needed for reverse osmosis water filtration systems.

A former Maine Department of Transportation salt-sand pile in Tremont was suspected as a contamination source, but it was gone by 1986, and state geologists say that’s enough time for the salt to wash away. The town landfill closed in 1996, and a state landfill remediation program has been paying some of the cost of bottled water and filtration systems, but it’s now not clear how much of the contamination is attributable to the landfill.

A public water or sewer system may eventually be necessary if costs for filtration or bottled water continue to rise. But town leaders have been wise to look for all other options first.

Public water and sewer are hugely expensive. They also change the game for zoning in the area served, creating pressure for more dense development.

For the moment, continued well testing, carefully tracking the placement of proposed new wells and septic systems, keeping salt storage as contained as possible, and considering non-salt de-icing options are about all the town can do.



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