Thinking ahead

At a recent meeting, Bar Harbor Town Councilor David Bowden urged the town to consider extending the public sewer lines north from Hulls Cove, when Route 3 is rebuilt in two years. That idea had been rejected previously when casual cost estimates were calculated. A management decision was made not to spend the money.

But any estimate that relies on potential fee revenue from existing structures, or amortizing costs over the short term entirely misses the point. Once that road is rebuilt, it likely will be 30 years or more before the state would be willing to have it torn apart for something like a sewer project.

The town currently operates two satellite treatment plants at each end of the project area, in Hulls Cove and at Degregoire Park.

As a quick look at tax maps will show, several large tracts of land could, in theory, one day support houses. The town’s philosophy to date has been to encourage development where there is access to municipal water and sewer. That avoids having scores of individual leach fields and wells representing a much larger negative impact on the environment. Some may hope that preventing sewer expansion would forestall future development. That just means whatever development is done will have a much greater potential negative impact on the groundwater, and on water quality in Frenchman Bay.

Along the stretch of road in question, from the Church of Our Father to the top of Ireson Hill, numerous homeowners have needed to replace their septic fields in recent years. Leach fields eventually wear out and have to be relocated. Because of the small size of their lots, it is unlikely they could find a spot for another. The option of connecting to the public sewer would be invaluable in protecting area property values.

Further, several lodging properties in the area also are on private septic systems. At least one had to lease land from his neighbor to accommodate his system.

One hotel owner already has stated he would be eager to connect to the public sewer were that option available.

One final important point: a line connecting the two existing plants would permit operations to continue, should a mechanical problem knock one of the plants offline. Should that problem occur today, the only option is to straight-pipe raw sewerage into the bay until the problem is fixed.

The town already has plans to upgrade the water system in the area while the road is rebuilt. No matter the cost, few would deny the substantial savings from doing the job now as opposed to doing it again ten, 20 or 30 years down the road.

Acting responsibly as sewer commissioners, the town council should be looking many years down the road as they consider whether or not to extend the Hulls Cove sewer.