Brewer trailer park residents take water quality concerns to city councilors

Posted May 24, 2011, at 11:29 p.m.
Last modified May 25, 2011, at 1:34 a.m.

BREWER, Maine — A group of Town & Country Mobile Home Park residents turned up at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting in an effort to get the city to step in and help resolve water quality problems they say have plagued them for at least five years.

Several other Town & Country residents turned up to say that they haven’t experienced long-term water quality issues and that the problem could be isolated.

While city councilors and department heads sympathized with the three residents of the 58-lot trailer park who sought their help, they pointed out that they might not be able to provide much in the way of assistance.

“There’s not a lot that we can do,” City Manager Steve Bost said in a brief interview before Tuesday night’s meeting. “It’s on private property. It’s not city water.”

Despite that, city councilors directed staff to take a closer look at the problem and come up with some recommendations.

During the meeting’s public comment period, park residents Carlene Carpenter, Nobelee Smith and Patty Crawford each took to the podium to express their anger and frustration about water they said was often discolored and sometimes smelled strongly of chlorine or sulfur.

Carpenter said the water from the two wells that serve the park sometimes has debris believed to be dirt or gravel in it. The water, she said, sickened her cats.

“You can’t bathe in it. You can’t drink it,” she said, adding that the water has been subject to boil orders in recent years.

Smith brought along water samples — one collected Monday that was clear but that she said smelled strongly of chlorine, and the other from Tuesday that was tea-colored.

“I have gone to court. I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do,” she said, adding that she also has been in contact with city and state officials, to no avail.

Crawford estimated that she has spent roughly $3,500 on bottled water since moving to the park, located off Day Road, about seven years ago. She said the water has ruined her laundry and killed her fish.

“Does anybody know how hardy goldfish are?” she asked city officials. “My main concern really is the water. Please, help. Help.”

Park owner Roger Tracy, however, provided documentation showing that the water at Town & Country meets the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“There’s no health issue, I can promise you, the state can promise you,” he said during the meeting.

Daniel Piasecki, field services manager for the Maine Drinking Water Program, wrote in a May 24 memo to Tracy, who holds a state license to operate the park’s water system, that two recent line breaks resulting in boil orders were properly handled and water testing show no signs of bacteria.

While his water was deemed safe by the state, Tracy acknowledged in a phone interview before Tuesday’s meeting that there are some aesthetic problems related to minerals that build up inside piping or naturally occur that sometimes flush into the water supply.

During the meeting, Brewer Water District Superintendent Michael Riley confirmed that. He added that the part of Brewer in which the mobile home park is located has relatively high levels of manganese and iron, which would account for the discoloration. He also said the area sometimes experiences “bacteria hits.”

“There are systems that can remove [minerals], but they are expensive to operate,” he said.

Tracy’s answers to councilors’ questions did not satisfy Councilor Larry Doughty, who called the trailer park owner on the carpet for not doing more to address the group’s water complaints. He recently posted a picture of a sink filled with discolored water on his blog.

“I sense that you have no compassion for these people,” he said.

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