While one member of the Orono-Veazie Water District has contended that a plan is in the works for the district to buy water from Old Town, there is no such proposal on the table, according to former district superintendent Dennis Cross.

For more than a year now, there has been sparring over the quality of water in Orono and Veazie, and specifically, the levels of trihalomethanes, which studies have indicated may mean a very slightly increased risk of cancer if water with the organic compound is consumed over several decades. About three years ago, a series of tests indicated the distrcit’s water was just ov er the federal standard of 80 parts per billion. That led the Orono-Veazie Water District to enter into a consent agreement with the state in 2012; steps were taken to lower THMs, and the town has been in compliance since and the consent agreement was lifted last year.

Those lower levels were not enough for a group of residents of the two towns, who wanted steps taken to further safeguard the water, and following public pressure trustees looked at several options, such as drilling new wells; test wells drilled earlier this year, however, proved to be unsatisfactory. Also eyes have been different treatment programs, such as ultraviolet light, which would offer varying effects and potentially high price tags.

Last month however, published reports indicated that Veazie resident Joan Perkins, who was involved early on in the fight over THMs and earlier this year was appointed a trustee to fill an unexpired term, said talks were underway for the district to possibly buy water from Old Town. Perkins also reportedly said that construction already has begun for a pumphouse in Orono to move the water out of Old Town.

But Cross, who retired last week, said the reason the joint connection already had existed for several years, to be used in times when mutual aid may be needed; the new structure was built to make that connection, which previously was just a trailer mounted pump, more reliable, particularly during the winter months, when it had to be run around the clock in cold weatherr to keep it from freezing up. There is a second connection elsewhere between the two districts.

Cross added that he and former Old Town Water District Superintendent Frank Kearney, who last week moved on to a new job in Aroostook County, had casual talks when the Old Town mill shut down this summer about the possibility of water no longer being used by the mill possibly being sold to Orono. With the mill up and running again, however, that conversation is now moot.

“There was no agreement on the table; to my knowledge, the two boards have not even talked about it at this point,” said Cross. “There has been no board decision.”

Cross said the misinformation was a continuation of an ongoing trend for the district.

“People got what was just little snippets of conversation over a cup of coffee, then running out and telling the whole world a decision had been made,” said Cross. “It’s a frustrating situation.”

Another person familiar with the situation, who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity, said that even if Orono and Veazie bought water from Old Town, it would have little effect on the levels of THMs; because of the design of the infrastructure, much of any water coming from Old Town would go only to UMaine, and that at best, the levels of THMs would only drop by four or five parts per billion.


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