RUMFORD — The Rumford Water District held a sparsely attended public meeting on May 14th regarding a proposed amendment to its water supply and lease agreement with Blue Triton Brands, Inc., dba Poland Spring Bottling Company.

The amendment will allow Poland Spring to lease additional land from RWD off Route 5, where it will develop a new well to be owned by RWD to purchase and transport additional water to its bottling facilities elsewhere.

The hour-long meeting was held in the Rumford Falls Auditorium and included a presentation by RWD regarding terms and conditions of the proposed agreement.

Andy Hamilton of Eaton Peabody, senior legal counsel for the water district, said RWD is proposing to withdraw and sell up to 75 million gallons per year of spring water to Poland Spring.

From left are Ricky Pershken of Dirigo Engineering; Mark Dubois of Poland Spring; Brad Adley, Rumford Water District trustee; James Thibodeau, RWD trustee chair; Andy Hamilton of Eaton Peabody, senior legal counsel for the water district; Rick Blanchard, RWD trustee; and RWD Supertindent John Halacy. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

The RWD property is at the bottom of the Ellis River Watershed, which is 164.2 square miles. The entire watershed empties into the Ellis River that flows through Andover.

Hamilton said the Borehole #4 project is a single-well addition to an existing project that includes Boreholes 1 and 2, which have been in place since 2019. The original agreement between Poland Spring and the RWD has been in place since PUC approval in June of 2018.


RWD Supt. John Halacy said that from April 2019 to now, the lease rental was $12,000 a month and the total is $775,298 that they’ve received to date. In addition, Poland Spring made a capital contribution of $160,000 towards the booster station that RWD put on top of Falls Hill.

He said, “To date, all of those, including the water purchase, have provided over $1.67 million to the district to stabilize our water rates for our customers, and provided substantial improvements out of cash flow without the need for rate increases for taking out loans and paying interest.”

Halacy said RWD has not raised its water rates since 2010.

The district has been able invest in its system, including putting in necessary replacements of sections of water main that’s been around since the early 1900’s.

Halacy added, “We’ve been able to fund $1,282,532 in repairs — replacements of mains, a new booster station, a new well at Scotty’s — all these jobs were funded out of pocket due to this revenue…Otherwise, we would have had to take out loans, pay interest and new rate increases. None were needed.”

George O’Keefe, economic development director for Rumford, said that before the creation of this project with Poland Spring, “Fundamentally, the Rumford Water District was insolvent, financially. There wasn’t enough money coming in, and rates, fees and payments on water to sustain the infrastructure of the water district over the longterm.


“I think it’s very important to remember that without the additional revenues coming in from selling spring water, the Rumford Water District, ultimately, was not actually maintaining itself,” he said.

He added, “The public need for drinking water comes far before and ahead of the ability of a corporation to buy spring water from the Rumford Water District… The process that allows this to happen is one of the most carefully regulated environmental permitting processes that there is.”

During the video presentation, it was noted that 1 inch of rain in this watershed equals 2.81 billion gallons. Average annual rainfall is 146 billion gallons a year.

The Milligan Well, which is the water district’s primary source, withdraws 172 million gallons a year (.13 percent).

Boreholes 1 and 2 are permitted up to 158 million gallons a year (.11 percent).

Borehole 4 is proposed to withdraw up to 75 million gallons a year (.05 percent).


Matt Reynolds, environmental hydrogeologist with Drumlin Environmental LLC of Portland, evaluated how much water there is in the watershed and how this proposal fits in.

“Add all those percentages up and it’s really small. This is water rich area. That’s what makes this robust, and also excess water to sell to Poland Spring,” he said, adding, “The additional water withdrawal won’t have any negative impact on the system’s water users.

Resident Monte Zeccola of Rumford asked what would happen with this agreement if there’s an issue with the water table.

Hamilton responded by reading from the existing water purchase and lease agreement, “Rumford shall have the right to suspend or reduce the sale of spring water from the source to Nestle Waters North America, as now Blue Triton,…to avoid a water shortage or other emergencies affecting RWD customers or Rumford residents dependent on the Ellis River Aquifer.”

He noted, “Nobody in this room, particularly not this district, wants to see any private wells affected.”

Hamilton said the water purchase is only one component of this longstanding agreement that remains in place. Even in this first amendment is approved, it only amends a couple of sections of the existing agreement. It does not amend the ability to suspend the provision of water to Poland Spring.


He noted that RWD is not a for-profit enterprise, “so they don’t have the desire to make money. They have a desire to help the customers of the district by gaining revenue associated with the sale of spring water…in a way that provides a sustainable source of revenue to the customers so that the customers don’t see a rate increase.”

Hamilton said, “It’s not just the Rumford Water District that protects the watershed. It’s also the Town of Rumford, which has groundwater protection measures in place. And all of this has been reviewed at the state level by three agencies — Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Maine Drinking Water Program and the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Hamilton said, “I have not a worry, as a resident of the State of Maine and as an attorney of the water district, that this sets any kind of dangerous precedent. I think it’s a very sound precedent because it allows water customers in Rumford to have rates stabilized and see that old early 1900’s vintage pipe taken out of the ground and replaced by new pipe so the district can operate properly.”

Chris Brennick, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said, “To me, having done this work for going on nine years as a selectman, Poland Spring is a great partner here…There’s plenty of protections and this is just a further development of more sustainability in our rates, and more sustainability in the district itself.”

Hamilton said that after the PUC process to review and act on the water purchase and the facility lease agreement, the district will close on that acquisition and lease back to Poland Spring the ability to draw from Borehole 4.

Mark Dubois, Natural Resource Manager for Poland Spring, said that if everything goes as planned, the project will be completed sometime in 2026.

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