Master plan in works for future sewer needs

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The Dec. 13 referendum to allow for increased density of development in downtown Bridgton may hinge on one phrase — “Got sewers?”

Without planning for sufficient sewer capacity by expanding existing leach fields, there’s not much point to lowering density requirements in the General Development District from either 50,000 or 25,000 square feet to 5,000 or 1,000 square feet, town officials agree.

So that’s why Bridgton’s Economic Development Committee has rolled up its sleeves and is working with the Wastewater Committee to develop a master plan for the town’s sewer system, which currently services around 62 customers. Two more members with wastewater expertise — Chris McDaniels and Ken Brown — have been added to the Wastewater Committee, and more volunteers are needed.

At a joint meeting in late October, a 1974 plan for the original sewer system was reexamined to see what areas were identified as sites for new leach fields, beyond the two existing fields off Wayside Avenue and near the ballfield on lower Main Street.

One piece of town-owned land on Kansas Road, a sandy parcel across from the cemetery, seemed to hold promise as a new field to service future development in and around Pondicherry Square, where Avesta Housing Inc. is interested in building a new 21-unit senior housing project on the former Chapter 11 property. The Dec. 13 referendum would split the General Development District into two sub-districts, with the denser Pondicherry Square area being General Development 11, and the rest of downtown being General Development 1. Areas served by both water and sewer would be lowered to 1,000 square feet per bedroom unit.

Alan Manoian, director of Economic and Community Development, outlined the scope of work that began this week to pump all of the septic tanks that tie into the sewer system, in order to allow engineers from Wright-Pierce Engineering Co. to do a comprehensive inflow-infiltration study. In excess of 55 tanks of between 500 and 1,000 gallons connected to the system will be pumped over the next few weeks by Dyer Septic, with the costs covered by the town’s Community Development Block Grant fund.

The state Department of Environmental Protection recently relicensed Bridgton’s system for 21,000 gallons-a-day at the lower ballfield site. The average per-day usage there now is around 5,200 gallons-a-day, but that figure may not be dependable because of inflow and infiltration weaknesses in the system and other issues.

Still, Wastewater Committee Chairman Ray Turner said the system should have a 11,000 gallon-a-day “buffer” in terms of excess capacity, once all system weaknesses are identified and repaired.

The town’s sewer ordinance requires that property owners would be responsible for paying for repairs from the tank to the street. Manoian said the town could use money from the Enterprise Fund to help pay for repairs in cases where a hardship can be identified, and then put a lien on the land to recapture the costs.

“The repairs all have to be done promptly, everybody knows that,” Manoian said. The town has set a goal of having all repairs completed by the end of spring next year. Work is currently being done to repair a longitudinal crack on the bottom of the sewer line near Pine Street. Turner said that once other repair work is identified, it would be important for Bridgton to lobby to have those repair costs properly reflect the cost of labor in Bridgton.

The Wastewater Committee discussed the merits of considering a spray irrigation system for wastewater disposal, as advocated by member Bear Zaidman, who said such systems are used successfully at ski areas. Member Chuck Renneker said it would be important for the committee to coordinate efforts with the Comprehensive Plan Committee, which is identifying future growth areas in town.

Currently, the sewer system is gravity-fed, and runs along Main Street from just below Main Hill to Oak Street, also serving side streets along the way. It does not extend down Kansas Road, or Route 117, or Portland Road. If a developer wanted to build a high-density housing development on any side streets, a public/private shared system might be considered as a solution. Manoian said it’s possible that some of the town’s CDBG funds could be used for new sewer line construction, or in creating new leach fields.

Please follow and like us: