Guest Column: Wastewater Committee explains its position on Question 3

“By changing the schedule by which use is assigned, and basing design flows on newer engineering guidelines, much capacity will be gained for the existing system, opening up potential for new users and for expanded users, which will in turn lower the rate per gallon for everyone.”

— Bridgton Wastewater Committee

 

Bridgton's Municipal Wastewater Disposal System is not sustainable in the way it's presently managed, even for the current users it serves. It certainly cannot support Bridgton's prosperity. To prosper and be environmentally and financially sustainable, Bridgton needs a new wastewater disposal system with a broader reach than just the downtown.

There are presently 73 homes and businesses on the system, mostly businesses. And to be clear, Bridgton’s wastewater removal system collects wastewater post-septic tank, which each user has on their property, and delivers it mostly by gravity flow, to leach fields at each end of town. This system was installed a very long time ago, was failing and had to be rehabbed 10 years ago to the tune of $850,000, using taxpayer block grant money, and has never served more than 76 users. Users were assigned, and then paid for, a certain number of gallons per day, called an allocation, that they could put into this limited system. If all these users were to flow their total allocated amount, the system would be maxed out with the total gallons well over the safety buffer required by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The ways that engineers assign Design Flow Value (the number of gallons required by a certain property for a particular use) has changed since allocations were made for existing users. By changing the schedule by which use is assigned, and basing design flows on newer engineering guidelines, much capacity will be gained for the existing system, opening up potential for new users and for expanded users, which will in turn lower the rate per gallon for everyone.

The Wastewater Committee is simply encouraging the use of these new numbers. This will not take away from anything any current users are doing at present, and, in fact, will allow some businesses already on the system to move forward with plans they have already invested in. Changing the way the current system is administered is not a long-term solution (there is not one for this existing system that is either efficient or sustainable), but will eke a little more from what we have, and keep us alive while a new system is built.

We need to get every bit of use we can from the existing system to continue to move forward while a new system is built. At this time, Downtown Bridgton is shut down to any growth, with only 661 gallons left in the part of the system for the upper end of Main Street, and none at all in the part of the system that serves the lower end of town from Methodist Hill south. Dead and empty buildings stay dead and empty, no new shops or restaurants, no new opportunities for entrepreneurs or for jobs. This situation has been accumulating for a while now, and can take the heart out of a town. Once the new system is operating, none of the current users of the existing system will have any problem flowing whatever they need to, to achieve their hopes and dreams for their properties.

Bridgton's Wastewater Committee wants Bridgton to prosper. We believe in managed growth, we believe in the goals of the new 2014 Comprehensive Plan, and we believe in the Future Land Use Plan and the Zoning Plan yet to be written, which will help to deliver these goals.

To prosper, we need a new wastewater system. This is apparent throughout the Comp Plan and the Future Land Use Plan within. A process has been engaged and steps are being taken to plan for this new system.

In our years of work toward a wastewater disposal system to serve more than just a few downtown users, we strive to address two equally important goals.

The first is to encourage economic development — thoughtful, well-designed development, bringing good jobs, helping to create balance in our tax base, thereby lessening the burden on residential taxpayers, and providing more locally available services and goods for our citizens.

The second is to protect the town's groundwater and water bodies from contamination from sewage. Much of the land in the growth areas in town is not suitable for traditional leach beds. Tight spaces and waterways throughout the downtown and wet soils along the corridors lead to expensive beds that fail frequently, contaminating our groundwaters. This has been the norm and must change to allow Bridgton’s waters to be clean, and the town to thrive.

We cannot sustain ourselves, let alone prosper, without these two goals being met.

From the time a new system is voted on, (yes, the citizens of Bridgton will be voting in the near future on this very important step for our town’s sustainability!) it can be constructed inside of two years.

Referendum Article #3 calls for no changes to the present allocations for the 73 users on the system. If this referendum passes, Bridgton’s downtown will be closed for the foreseeable future. It will also show a lack of community commitment in the eyes of any interested funding partners for a new wastewater system. If you are not moved to action by this paragraph, please go back and read this article again carefully. This is important!

The WWC opposes Referendum Article #3, and urges citizens to vote it down, become informed on these issues, and stand with us to keep Bridgton open for business while plans come together for a new system. The WWC meets on Thursday, May 28, at 6 p.m. in the Selectmen’s Room at the Municipal Building.

Please be in touch with your town manager or a Wastewater Committee member for more information.

Bridgton Wastewater Committee

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