Engineers search for weak links in downtown sewer system

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

Engineers from Wright-Pierce completed a comprehensive inspection Dec. 14-15 of 15 selected commercial sewer systems tied to Bridgton’s downtown municipal sewer system.

GREEN DYE TELLS TALES — Engineers from Wright-Pierce pour green dye for a roof drain test at Food City in Bridgton to check to see if the water is draining improperly into the septic system. The results showed the drainage was proper.

In general most properties were fine, although some systems need to be expanded and maintained better, said Alan Manoian, Bridgton’s Director of Economic and Community Development. Using a combination of dye testing, pumping and inspection of septic tanks and close physical inspections property piping and mechanicals, the engineers found several areas with open drains or pipes that must be sealed. In one property a septic tank was failing, showing substantial inflow, and in another, an illegal sump-pump hookup was uncovered in a commercial/residential building on Main Street.

“We did identify several problems that have to be addressed with some of the private septic tanks,” Manoian said. “We’re now developing a program to address the physical failure issues.”

Manoian said the town’s sewer ordinance requires users to make repairs if deficiencies are identified that compromise the efficiency of the system. “We’re investigating a program where we could share the costs of repairs” with users, he said.

The sewer ordinance requires users to correct violations within a reasonable time limit once they are discovered. The ordinance also allows the town to impose a civil penalty of not less than $100 for each violation found, and charge $100 a day for each day the violation goes uncorrected.

In particular, it appears that repairs may be needed to some lines serving residential properties near Harmon Field on lower Main Street, since infiltration rates were found to be higher in that field. The details of such a program would be drawn up and approved by Bridgton Selectmen after the final sewer inspection report is presented to them in late January, Manoian said.

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE — Engineers Steve Gurette and Joel White from Wright-Pierce use mirrors and lights to inspect the rim of a commercial septic system for failures or breaches along Main Street in Bridgton.

The town used Community Development Block Grant funding last year to expand the capacity of the town’s two sewer fields, at Dodge Hill (serving upper Main Street) and Harmon Field (serving lower Main Street). In so doing, workers noticed that there were large amounts of water going into the fields, above and beyond the amount measured by the sewer meters. The discrepancy indicates infiltration, and part of this year’s CDBG funding is being used to determine the causes.

Possible causes include breaks in the pipes coming from the user’s property, illegal sump-pump hookups, failing septic tanks or improperly installed roof or floor drains.

“The system either function together or fails together; all must keep the system functioning well,” Manoian said. There are a total of 58 users in the system, which was constructed in 1983. It is hoped that with the expanded capacity of the two fields serving the system, more users can be hooked up in the course of redeveloping downtown buildings for commercial purposes.

Wright-Pierce is designing a high-capacity sewer treatment system to serve the historic Masonic Building in Pondicherry Square, which is being redeveloped for use as a microbrewery and pub.

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