Penobscot to address failing septic systems

Posted Feb. 02, 2011, at 8:25 p.m.

PENOBSCOT, Maine — Town officials will work this spring with homeowners whose septic systems have been identified as having failed.

According to Selectman Paul Bowen, two state agencies have contacted the town about concerns over failed septic systems that might be affecting the water quality in Northern Bay. Earlier this year, inspectors from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection inspected 126 septic systems around Northern Bay and iden-tified 15 malfunctioning systems.

A notice last week from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services formally notified the town that, under state law, it was up to town officials to develop a plan to remedy those faulty systems. Although the official notice required the town to submit a remediation plan within 30 days, Bowen said it likely will be spring before any work is done.

“Our plan is, when the weather permits, we will have our plumbing inspector check the systems again to determine what the problem is and if it is repairable,” he said. “We’re just going to see what the situation is.”

Bowen added that the town will notify the affected homeowners that the plumbing inspector, Gerry Guse, will do the inspections. He will carry with him information about site evaluators who can design new septic systems if needed and about Maine State Housing Authority loans that are available for qualifying homeowners.

Although some of the homeowners identified with failing systems may not qualify for the MSHA loans, there are others who will, Bowen said.

The town also has begun working with the Hancock County Planning Commission to apply for funding through the state Community Development Block Grant program, but Bowen said he was not optimistic about funds being available.

The town has been under pressure from the state for several years to eliminate the overboard discharge system at the elementary school. This summer the town installed a new septic system for the school which, according to Bowen, is now operating well.

The Penobscot Nursing Home also has been under pressure to replace its overboard discharge system. Although the town had offered to allow the nursing home to use town property and to run lines in the ditch the town used for its system, the nursing home’s plans for the project never developed.

Bowen said the overboard discharge from the nursing home probably is having more of an effect on the bay than the individual systems, and the town repeatedly has urged the state to get that taken care of. The nursing home, and several others around the state, were placed in state receivership in 2008, Bowen pointed out. Since then, he said, there has been little movement on its septic system.

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