New Gloucester residents address public water system project

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NEW GLOUCESTER – Several residents Monday night voiced strong support for the proposed $2.3 million public water system for Upper Gloucester Village.

The project is to address 48 private wells contaminated by benzene and salt as far back as the 1980s.

Laura Jane Sturgis of Peacock Hill Road told the Board of Selectmen at Monday’s public hearing that she has two properties within the proposed system: her home that has no well contamination and a rental property that does.

“I’ve never been comfortable renting to families with children. I have a moral obligation to my tenants,” she said. “I live in another house that has no contamination, but I will willingly hook up. I hope to God that the town will approve this district,” she said.

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Resident Beverly Cadigan said though her residence is not affected by the contamination the problem has “gone on for a long period of time. We can’t hold up the process. This is a good way to start to solve this problem. Filtration is not a good way to do it.”

The women were among about 40 residents attending the hearing on three articles that are set for a vote Monday, Jan. 14.

The articles for the water system are: approving an interlocal agreement with the New Gloucester Water District; approving Town of New Gloucester Upper Village Water Service Ordinance; approving an easement agreement between the town and the water district for land at the New Gloucester Fairgrounds where a new well has been drilled to supply the system.

The public water system is planned from the New Gloucester Fairgrounds on Bald Hill Road to the Upper Village along a section of Route 100. It will include Wayfarer Park on the Bald Hill Road, a mobile home park.

Every property in that area faces hook-up, whether contaminated or not, because funding for the project requires it, Town Planner Paul First said.

Carleton Wilcox said it seemed strange to him to have the well in a high-density section of the town with a mobile home park that is “economically challenged.” He said he is worried about arsenic levels, which are naturally occurring.

For more than an hour, residents heard from board Chairman Steve Libby, New Gloucester Water District trustees Lawrence Zuckerman and Steve Johnson, and First. Others fielding questions included representation from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Drumlin Associates, Wright Pierce engineers and the town’s attorney for the project.

Public health concerns, inability to finance and sell property, blight and costs associated with temporary measures can be remedied with a public water system, according to engineers who designed it.

The first year hook-up cost will be $350 to $400 for each property. After that, a minimum rate will be set for users.

The total project cost is $2,355,4287, of which $1,365827 will come from grants from the DEP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, and the Cumberland County Community Block Grant program.

Voters will be asked to approve an $800,000 USDA Rural Development loan for 40 years at 2.12 percent; an $189,601 loan for 20 years at 2.5 percent for hook-ups; and $8,000 for one year for fire protection.

The estimated annual cost for the town is $50,000.

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