June 19, 2018
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Orono-Veazie water consent order lifted after levels of suspected carcinogen drop

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — The level of trihalomethanes, a water disinfection byproduct that is a suspected carcinogen, was below the EPA’s limit of 80 parts per billion for all of 2013 and the Orono-Veazie Water District has been released from a consent order to remedy the situation.

The 2013 average for trihalomethanes, or THMs, was 76 parts per billion and the most recent test was 66 parts per billion, according to Water District Superintendent Dennis Cross.

Even so, Veazie resident Mark Smith, who sat beside his son, Tristan, 7, said he will not be drinking the water that comes out of his pipes at home.

“I do not feel comfortable drinking the water, especially since I live at the end of the street,” he said at a community conversation held after the water district’s Tuesday meeting. “I have kids and … I don’t want my son drinking the water.”

Jeffrey Musich, senior vice president of Wright-Pierce of Topsham, the firm hired to help fix the water problems asssured the 60 or so residents at the meeting that the town’s water is safe and the water district is working on steps to make it better, including digging a new well.

THMs are a group of four chemical compounds, including chloroform, that form when chlorine used to kill bacteria reacts with naturally occurring organic matter, such as decaying leaves, algae, and human or animal waste.

The Orono-Veazie Water District exceeded the EPA ’s annual average 80 parts per billion limit for THMs in 2012 and was ordered to hire a consultant, come up with a plan to address the problem and complete the necessary improvements.

In 2012 and 2013, the water district took a dozen steps to reduce levels, including draining and power washing the tank and flushing water lines, Musich said.

“These are common problems,” he said. “We’re managing this right, the way the EPA tells us.”

Roger Crouse, Maine Drinking Water Program director, said his agency will keep an eye on the water district and already has approved a nearly $300,000 loan to test and purchase land for a new well.

“There is still concern about THM levels: Is it safe enough?” he said. “We’re going to continue to hold the water district accountable to that 80 parts per billions.”

Smith said until he knows differently, he and his family will be drinking bottled water.

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