The Town of Perry has developed two ordinances that were scheduled to be the subject of a public hearing on the evening of Thursday, August 7. Both ordinances are unanimously supported by the town's selectmen. The two ordinances, Large Scale Water Extraction Ordinance and Building and Site Review Ordinance, are explained by Perry Select Board Chair Karen Raye as being the logical outcome of a large-scale water extraction moratorium put in place because of well testing that took place last fall in the town.
The well test pumping project was conducted by Wright‑Pierce Engineering for 10 days starting September 19, 2013, for the Passamaquoddy Tribe. According to a statement made at an October 2013 Perry selectmen's meeting held to gather information about those affected by the well testing, Tribal Environmental Director Marvin Cling noted that the Passamaquoddy Water District (PWD) "has difficulty in delivering quality" with its current water source of Boyden Lake. The effort to find a new water source began in 2011 and in 2013 focused on a bedrock aquifer in the area of South Meadow and Golding roads where tribal land is located. Wright‑Pierce Senior Vice President Jeffrey Musich explained at the same October meeting that bedrock water is usually better quality than lake water and less costly to treat.
However, the PWD recently has upgraded the plant that treats the water coming from Boyden's Lake as well as replaced almost all of the old water mains in the City of Eastport. While the presence of trihalomethanes, a potential carcinogenic agent, was a concern in the past because of past treatment techniques, it has not been for some time, says PWD Superintendent Nancy Seeley. "The running average is where it should be," she notes. The recent upgrades and replacement of mains all contribute to an improvement in water quality, she adds.
The pumping period utilized three test pumping wells, monitored seven private wells and four bedrock wells as well as an additional six wells. The test wells were 300 feet deep. A number of Perry residents' private wells were affected by the pumping tests. One couple's 65-foot well ran dry, and because they did not know about the pumping, spent $1,200 trying to fix it before finding out about the testing from a well drilling company that they called.
Raye explains, "If these ordinances had been in place earlier, the issues and lack of communication surrounding the 10‑day pump test performed by the Passamaquoddy Tribe within the Town of Perry would not have happened because there would have been a requirement that neighboring property owners be notified in advance. The proposed ordinances will put reasonable protections in place for the citizens of Perry."
She continues, "As a result of the issues stemming from the 10‑day pump test, the voters of the town approved a Large Scale Water Extraction Moratorium providing time for the selectmen to ensure future protections are in place. The selectmen appointed a citizen committee, which included representation from the Passamaquoddy Tribe, to develop a water ordinance and tasked the planning board with updating the Building and Site Review Ordinance."
The PWD is owned by the Passamaquoddy Tribe, explains the tribe's energy Director Normand Laberge. In 1983 the tribe purchased the private Eastport Water Company and "has taken the initiative to secure grants to determine the most practical use of a natural resource." He adds, "Approximately 12 wells have been drilled on tribal land in Perry to determine the safe yield from this natural resource while properly considering return on investment." He says that any terms of negotiation with PWD regarding the wells as a water source have not been finalized. However, he explains, that the State of Maine "has approved a permit application from the Passamaquoddy Tribe to extract up to 250 gallons/minute from two tribal wells. PWD board of trustees and the tribal council at the Pleasant Point reservation have approved plans to initiate discussion on the use of tribal wells." He adds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is waiting for the results of negotiations and the vote on the Perry ordinance to fund the next phase of development -- the design of a facility leading to project financing.
The Perry building and site review ordinance's stated purpose "is to assure compliance with existing state and local regulations governing land use and subsurface wastewater disposal; secure the comfort, convenience, safety, health and welfare of the people of the Town of Perry; and protect the environment and to promote the development of an economically sound and stable community." Both ordinances were developed in response to the well water testing.
Raye explains, "The goal of these ordinances is not to put an end to any possible project, but instead to ensure that if a project proceeds, that the people of Perry are protected. According to our home rule authority, we have a right and responsibility as selectmen to do so."
The public hearing on the two ordinances was scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 7, at the Perry municipal building. Voters will then have the opportunity to vote on the ordinances at the polls on Monday, August 18, from 1 to 7 p.m.