ORONO/VEAZIE – Levels of a possible carcinogenic in the Orono-Veazie water supply were deemed last month to be safe at several new test facilities in Veazie.

The Orono-Veazie Water District has been having problems with trihalomethanes (THMs) in the water supply for the two towns on and off for years, Chlorine is used to treat that water; THMs form when organic and inorganic compounds react with that chlorine. The US Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that public water systems be checked for THMs and other chemicals on a regular basis; the EPA has set a standard of no more than 80 parts per billion of THMs.

Those standards are because research has revealed that there is a small increase in the risk of developing bladder or colorectal cancer from THMs –the EPA has estimated that drinking two liters of water containing 100 parts per billion of THMs every day for 70 years could cause three extra cases of cancer per every 10,000 people. The EPA also has indicated in the past there is no immediate risk in drinking water with THMs that exceed 80 parts per billion.

Tests have been a problem from time to time for the Orono-Veazie Water district, with about a third of tests in the past decade exceeding the 80 ppb standard, and the average of all tests falling just under that threshold. Those problem tests led to the district entering into a consent decree with the state – a step that has happened in communities across Maine more than a dozen times – whereby the district agreed to work on its water issues. The district took the steps requested by the state, and that mandate recently was listed; four tests taken in January indicated THM levels of 48 to 67 ppb – levels that district and state officials say are safe.

But that assurance hasn’t been enough to mollify some people, particularly in Veazie, who contend the district should be doing more to get THMs out of the water supply. That led to the town of Veazie hiring an independent company to test the water there, at ten homes. Those tests revealed levels of THMs between 54.9 and 70 ppb – again, a level that has been deemed acceptable by the EPA. But given the recent concerns by those worried about their, it seems unlikely that assurance will appease them – and they may continue to press the water district to take action.

Any steps taken, however, will not happen in the immediate future. While the district has received approval for a $300,000 loan to buy property for a new well, which could help remediate the problem, it could take upwards of three years to have a new well up and running. Some people have also voiced the opinion that perhaps a new treatment plant should be built, closer to Veazie – but the cost of such a facility, estimated at $5 million, could be a tough sell.

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