Mark Dubois, a Poland Spring geologist and natural resource manager, addresses a question from Brie Weisman of Rumford during a public meeting Wednesday on an agreement between Poland Spring Water Co. and the Rumford Water District.

RUMFORD — About 40 people attended a public meeting Wednesday on a proposed agreement between Poland Spring Water Co. and the Rumford Water District.

An agreement would permit the company to draw up to 150 million gallons a year from two new wells on district property off Route 5.

The session in Rumford Falls Auditorium included concerns about the length of the contract and the profitability Nestle Waters North America, Poland Spring’s parent company, stands to make from the Ellis River aquifer.

Water customer Eric Davis said, “Fifteen years is a long time with the way things are happening in the world today. Personally, I’d rather see a 10-year maximum agreement, with negotiable renewals every five years.”

Mark Dubois, a Poland Spring geologist and natural resource manager, said they wanted more like a 20- or 25-year contract with the district, but the 15-year contract is being requested because of the “$8 to $10 million capital investment being made here.”

Water customer Brie Weisman asked if there is a maximum amount of pumping allowed for Poland Spring.

Certified geologist Ricky Pershken, technical consultant for the Water District, said the maximum withdrawal rate is set by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Weisman also asked Dubois for an estimate of the number of additional trucks on the road this agreement would mean.

Dubois said they don’t yet have actual trucking route information. In looking at the Department of Transportation traffic counts in that area, he said there’s more than 100 trucks per hour at the peak hour, between 5 to 6 p.m. on Route 2 west of Rumford.

Dubois said they’ll be looking for a loading station in December in the general area of the intersection of Routes 2 and 5.

When Poland Spring applies for a permit with the DEP, the trucking route information will be a requirement.

Dubois said he hopes to present an evaluation update to the Board of Selectmen by September on the bottling facility effort.

Selectman Peter Chase asked that if the water rate increases for the average resident, will Poland Spring also face an increase.

“Absolutely yes,” Water District attorney Andrew Hamilton of Eaton Peabody legal firm said.

Water customer Cliff Harding said signing a potential 40-year contract is a good decision “if you don’t pay attention to current events around the world … to pollution, overpopulation and these priceless deepwater aquifers.”

State Rep. John Madigan of Rumford, speaking as a resident and water customer, said the agreement would provide money for “economic development to turn this town around.”

He said Poland Spring is well respected around the state and “a good corporate citizen.”

“We need to keep Rumford alive with other industries coming to Rumford to join Catalyst Mill as businesses to increase revenue for the town’s tax base,” water customer Diane Milligan said. “We have the new Best Western Plus hotel being built to produce future jobs and an enormous opportunity with Poland Spring benefiting Rumford as a new industry producing much needed jobs, purchasing water from RWD, community involvement for our citizens and their children and supplying much needed funds for infrastructure replacement and leading to building a bottling facility in Rumford.”

She said Poland Spring’s water purchase will accomplish all this.

Hamilton said the Water District board of trustees will evaluate all the information presented at the hearing and determine if they wish to make any modifications to the agreement.

He said they cannot sign an agreement with Poland Spring until 30 days after the public hearing, making the earliest possible signing Aug. 11.

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Highlights of the draft agreement with Nestle Waters North America

• Water purchase: At the current district large customer water rates, Poland Spring’s estimated 100 to 150 million gallons per year would result in the company paying between $200,000 and $300,000 per year to the district.

• Lease: Wells and equipment used to extract spring water will be paid for by Poland Spring, owned by the district, and leased back to Poland Spring at $12,000 per month ($144,000 per year).

• Terms of the agreement: Fifteen years with five additional renewal terms of five years each; guaranteed minimum payment for first three years. The district can terminate the agreement after 10 years if Poland Spring does not fulfill its obligations under the Community Benefits Agreement (i.e., $1 million investment fund) or the Evaluation Agreement (i.e., $100,000 for aquifer exploration and $175,000 impact fee to the district).

• Infrastructure: Poland Spring will provide $160,000 for redundancy between the Milligan and Scotties Brook wells.

• Community benefits for Rumford: Current proposed community benefits by Nestle Waters North America — Creating Shared Values investment of $250,000 per year over the first four years of water extraction in Rumford to create an investment fund of $1 million. Additionally, Nestle Waters North America would provide $50,000 per year in each of the first four years to provide Rumford money for projects now; and additional community benefits are $20,000 per year payment in lieu of taxes throughout the term of the water supply agreement. Nestle Waters North America estimates the loading station will produce $20,000 to $30,000 per year in property taxes.

• Pathway to a bottling plant: Allow for sufficient time to gather long-term data on reliability of the water source, and allow for time to find two additional sources of spring water that could, in addition to the Ellis River aquifer, support a bottling plant in Rumford.

• Nestle Waters North America has agreed to meet four times a year with the town and the district to provide updates.

• Nestle Waters North America has agreed to expend $100,000 to find additional spring water sources in the Rumford area over the course of at least three years.

• Nestle Waters North America has agreed to pay the district $175,000 for an evaluation impact fee.

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