WILTON — The Wilton Select Board discussed the need to increase the town’s water and sewer rates at the board’s Tuesday, Aug. 2, meeting.

Water and Wastewater Superintendent Heinz Grossman told the board the need comes from multiple factors: increased costs of sludge disposal due to recent PFAS legislation and the ability to qualify for larger grants to fund the water-transmission-line replacement project.

The primary factor, Grossman told the board, is the immense costs incurred by disposing of sludge from the town’s wastewater treatment plant that could contain so-called “forever chemicals” commonly referred to as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances).

In April, the Maine Legislature passed LD 1911, “An Act To Prevent the Further Contamination of the Soils and Waters of the State with So-called Forever Chemicals” prohibiting “the spreading or composting of industrial or municipal sludge after farms where sludge had been spread through a state-licensed program – some dating as far back as the 1970s – began to test positive for high levels of harmful forever chemicals, or PFAS,” the Portland Press Herald reported.

PFAS are found in a variety of consumer goods and waste sludge. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry say PFAS chemicals have been linked in federal studies to health problems including thyroid disease, liver problems, decreased fertility and several kinds of cancers.

Wilton subsequently purchased and installed steel piping to pump out the sludge and send it to a processing facility in Madison.


The other option was for Wilton to purchase expensive equipment and process the sludge in town.

“For us [Wilton], it’s expensive but it takes the onus of the PFAS away from us, we bring it to Madison and they can deal with it,” Grossman said.

As a result, Grossman said the town is spending $5,000-$6,400 a week to haul the sludge to Madison.

The 5% increase to sewer rates previously anticipated (before the PFAS legislation came on the board’s radar in March) is now looking like a 20-30% increase, Grossman told the board.

With a 20% increase, Grossman said the cost of water rates could increase from $66 to $86 every three months.

“This [PFAS and the subsequent large rate increase] was not even in our thought process a year ago,” Grossman explained. “But we’re not the only community in the state of Maine right now that is reeling from this.”


Grossman is certainly right – Wilton is just one of many towns hiking their sewer rates, the Press Herald reported.

July 12, the Farmington Board of Selectmen also “approved increasing the septage receiving rate from $85 to $175 per 1,000 gallons of septage” for the same reason as Wilton, according to the Franklin Journal’s Pam Harnden.

This legislation is why Grossman previously requested to halt the 5% increase, he said. He didn’t want to do two rate increases in a year.

Select Board Chair David Leavitt wondered if a better route would be to implement a 5% increase first and then a 15% increase.

“I’d rather eat the pie one slice at a time rather than all at once,” Leavitt said. “[It would be better] if we can do a smaller rate increase for payers, even if it’s staggered.”

Selectperson Tiffany Maiuri agreed.


The large rate increase is “going to be shocking” for residents, Maiuri said.

Grossman said the better choice is to do the 20% increase all at once in the hope of receiving more grant money for the water-transmission-line replacement project.

The town was recently granted a $7.4 million loan alongside a $2.2 million grant from USDA Rural Development for the transmission line, Grossman told the board earlier in the meeting.

Increasing the rates all at once would help the town qualify for grants from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) administered by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Maine Municipal Bond Bank to offset the costs of that loan, Grossman said.

Jim Lord of Dirigo Engineering, who is overseeing the transmission-line replacement, told the board in March the SRF grant is preferable but Wilton is currently on a “backup list.”

Outgoing Town Manager Rhonda Irish explained “our water rates are very low, too low to qualify us for the [SRF] funding.”


Grossman feels the primary concern should be reducing the town’s overall debt from this project.

No action was taken to increase the rates, but the board did instruct Irish and incoming Town Manager Perry Ellsworth, present for his first meeting, to do a data analysis on the rate increases. The analysis will look at what kind of rate increases are needed and how the different ways to increase the rates would impact the town.

The board also instructed Irish and Ellsworth to work on a letter for the local legislators addressing the PFAS legislation and its impact on towns like Wilton.

The Select Board had previously sent a letter to Gov. Janet Mills expressing these concerns about the financial burden Wilton would face from having to dispose of sludge with PFAS levels below the critical threshold.

This new letter will urge the local legislators, including state Sen. Russell Black and state Rep. Randall Hall to move forward with legislative action to financially support towns across the state as they find new ways to dispose of the sludge.

“I think there will be a rallying call here as soon as everybody feels the real punch of what it’s costing,” Ellsworth told the board. “I think a concerted effort [is needed].”

Comments are not available on this story.