Council seeks way out of $8-million state mandate

BAR HARBOR — A state-mandated, $8-million sewer system project slated to begin in 2016 would have little benefit to the town and would best be avoided, town councilors decided Feb. 5.

While new discussions between the town and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on the mandated project are not slated to begin for another year or two, councilors voted 6-1 to instruct town staff to immediately approach DEP about eliminating the project.

Citing the administration of Republican Governor Paul LePage as being receptive to working with towns and cities on burdensome regulatory requirements, councilor Gary Friedmann said that the time to act was now.

“If you’re ever going to get a change of heart at DEP, it’s between now and 2015,” he said.

The combined sewer overflow (CSO) elimination project would remove wastewater overflow points on Frenchman Bay that are meant to prevent backups on land during large stormwater events. The project would re-route overflow from as far as West Street back to the sewer treatment plant on Ledgelawn Avenue.

Consistent work on the more than 100-year-old sewer system to eliminate stormwater infiltration has eliminated 99 percent of all overflow events, town officials say. That ongoing effort should be enough for DEP officials to withdraw their demand that Bar Harbor reach 100-percent compliance, Mr. Friedmann said.

Councilor Bob Garland voted against pursuing negotiations on the project early, saying that Mr. Reeves has done an excellent job of satisfying DEP officials without antagonizing them. He agreed that the LePage administration might be receptive to such a request, but, “if they give bend to the town of Bar Harbor, every town in the state of Maine is going to be in there,” he said.

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Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]