YORK, Maine — York Water District officials didn’t mince words when York Heights residents asked them what they could expect when a two-month project gets underway to rehabilitate the York Heights water tank.
“It’s going to be loud and disruptive,” said York Water District Superintendent Don Neumann during a public informational meeting at York Public Library on Thursday evening. “We really want to be honest with the residents that it is going to take a certain amount of work to get this done.”
The work that Neumann referred to involves a planned rehabilitation and repainting of the York Heights water tank, stripping the interior and exterior coatings of the 65-foot-tall tank that is used to store more than two million gallons of water for residences, businesses and fire protection.
Neumann previously said that the tank has to be sand blasted inside and outside — a process that hasn’t been done in 30 years — and then repainted.
When the tank was painted in 1970, a lead based paint was used, he said. It was overcoated in the 1980s, and now all layers of paint have to be removed, he said. A robot with a hose attached to it will remove the paint, which will be stored in secured containers and removed from the site.
York Water District officials said a pre-investigation of the tank revealed the exterior has lead-based paint of more than 27 percent and the interior coating has lead-based paint of about 0.01 percent. There has been so soil contamination found anywhere on the water district property.
According to Neumann, the project will get underway on April 1 and the work will be completed on or before June 15. He said it could take up to 20 days to strip and recoat the tank’s exterior and some weekend work might be needed depending on the weather.
“We’re going to make sure this project moves as quickly as possible,” Neumann said.
A “fast blaster robot” from Marcel Payeur, Inc., of Sanford will be used to remove the exterior coating and collect all of the dust that will be generated by that work, Neumann said. The town has also retained the services of Cashins and Associates, a firm that specializes in monitoring industrial hygiene to make sure nearby residents are not exposed to any lead debris during the project.
Payeur’s company has been involved with 225 tank projects and 200 of those involved lead abatement projects, Neumann said. His company also performed the overcoat work on the York Heights tank in 1985.
Ryan Lynch, the York Water District plant manager, said the work will take place from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the workweek. If work takes place on a Saturday, it would be conducted from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. He said odors from the new coatings will not last long because they are rolled not sprayed.
Neumann said there are 70 homes in the York Heights neighborhood and six of those homes are located within 100 feet of the water tank.
Resident Laurie Macdonald said her biggest concern is the noise that will result from the project. At one point, she asked Payeur to compare the noise level of the robot to a leaf blower.
“I suggest it will be greater than a leaf blower,” Payeur told her.
Macdonald emphasized that residents who are directly affected by the project need to be in the loop when it comes to what they can expect.
“We need to be very clear on what our expectations will be for the quality of life during this project,” she said.
Payeur said the majority of the noise will occur during the first 30 days of the project.
“It’s been my experience that those old coatings will be removed relatively quickly with the fast blaster,” he said.
Neumann said residents may also notice a slight reduction in water pressure when town officials drain the York Heights Tank.
“It will take about a week to drain the tank,” he added.
Michael Cashins of the industrial hygiene services firm said they would set up filter monitors around the perimeter of the project work area and at different homes to monitor the lead levels.
Amber Harrison, the York code enforcement and health officer, asked Neumann how they would notify residents if any lead readings taken by the industrial hygiene firm show any excess levels.
Neumann replied town officials would “go door-to-door” and let people know and they would cease operations until stronger engineering controls could be implemented.
Neumann also said town officials could send York Heights residents weekly email blasts to update them on the project’s process.
“The more information you can convey to the rest of us, the smoother the process will be,” Macdonald added.