New Gloucester to vote on ambitious public water system to fight contaminated wells

Posted Jan. 11, 2013, at 5:21 p.m.

NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine — New Gloucester residents must decide whether to support a new $2.36 million public water system to combat salt and petroleum deposits that have contaminated 20 wells in the town.

At a 7 p.m. town meeting Monday, residents will vote on a slate of items that will pave the way for the new system, including consideration of an ordinance that would require property owners in the vicinity of the proposed pipeline to connect to it.

Aside from the approximately 20 properties where wells have been shown to be contaminated with salt or benzene, which qualify for state and federal remediation grants, property owners will be forced to plug into the new system at their own expense, according to a draft of the ordinance posted on the town website.

The new clients of the nascent New Gloucester Water District, which was formed last year by the Legislature to oversee development and maintenance of the proposed system, also will face annual fees starting at between $350 and $400.

The ambitious project, which would be completed in 2014 if approved, aims to battle groundwater contamination found in the town’s Upper Village section.

“During the 1950s, the state and later the town unknowingly piled road salt on the ground. The result was a slow leaching of salt and chloride into ground water beneath the Upper Village area,” reads a town meeting statement by the three-person water district board of trustees.

“Later, during the 1980s and early 1990s, leaking petroleum storage tanks were identified in the Upper Village,” the trustees’ statement continues, in part. “While with assistance from Maine [Department of Environmental Protection] the source of contamination was addressed, groundwater in the Upper Village was contaminated with petroleum product. Groundwater in much of the Upper Village remains contaminated and cannot be removed.”

The $2.36 million public water system would be funded by $1.4 million in federal grant money and nearly $990,000 in loans taken out by the town, costing New Gloucester taxpayers a total of approximately $50,000 annually in payments over at least the next 20 years, and decreasing to between $30,000 and $40,000 each year over the following 20 years.

Monday’s town meeting takes place at the New Gloucester AmVets Hall at 1095 Lewiston Road.

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