AUBURN – A contract for the engineering design of a chloramine feed system was awarded by the Water District Board of Trustees Wednesday. The district hopes for construction to begin this fall.

The system will be housed inside the garage at the Auburn Water and Sewerage District on Court Street.

A bid of $16,700 was accepted from Wright-Pierce, an engineering firm from Topsham. A $29,100 bid from a Massachusetts firm was rejected.

Superintendent Norm Lamie said Wright-Pierce has done design work for the sewerage district, and the firm is currently under contract to design a chloramine feed system for a water utility that serves Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells. Several chloramine feed systems are either planned or under construction in Maine.

The chloramine feed system at the garage would be a short-term solution for the next two to five years. Similar systems are in use in Massachusetts and New York. It is also in use in several cities in Europe. The cost to the Auburn Water District would be between $150,000 and $175,000.

A recent water quality study indicated that chloramination might reduce acidic compounds that caused the district to be out of compliance with federal drinking water standards. Chloramination uses a combination of chlorine and ammonia to reduce haloacetic acids.

About 6,000 Water District customers have received two letters in recent months informing them of a continued violation of a federal water quality standard and the district’s short- and long-term solutions. Increased levels of haloacetic acids in drinking water were discovered in November. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection requires quarterly letters of notification to customers. The Auburn Water District is in voluntary compliance with the DEP by notifying customers quarterly and by developing short- and long-term solutions.

Haloacetic acidic compounds are created when chlorine added to water for disinfection combines with natural organic matter. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has established a maximum contaminant level of 60 parts per billion for haloacetic acids. It is based on the estimated lifetime cancer risk of one in 10,000, assuming an adult’s tap water consumption is eight and one-half cups per day for a 154-pound adult. The amount found in November was 65 parts per billion in a sample taken from within the water distribution system. The most recent testing indicated a level of 66 parts per billion.

In other business, the board agreed by consensus to waive the interest and make a reasonable payment arrangement on a bill of more than $500 for a customer who had a water leak. The bill had been appealed to the Public Utilities Commission.

Lamie expressed concern to the board that waiving part of the principal owed could set a costly precedent.

Board President Bruce Rioux said he wanted to be accommodating to the customer.

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