Pure, clean, fresh water has been running into Fryeburg homes for over 200 years! Our municipal water utility not only provides water for drinking, cleaning and septic removal, it was and is still the most reliable fire suppression tool for the safety of our homes and businesses. But today, many people in our community might not realize that there are two separate organizations caring for water. The Fryeburg Water District and the Fryeburg Water Company are not one and the same.
The Fryeburg Water Company was originally established as the Fryeburg Aqueduct Corporation in 1813 to "bring water in subterraneous pipes, to any place within said town of Fryeburgh." (An act to establish the Fryeburgh Aqueduct Corporation). In 1879 the Fryeburg Water Company was incorporated “for the purpose of conveying to the village of Fryeburg a supply of pure water for domestic and other purposes.” according to the Documentary History of American Water-works, 2015, by Morris A. Pierce. Two amendments to the Fryeburg Water Company charter allowed it to purchase the East Conway Water Co. the Company to sell stocks of private equity. For most of its history the Fryeburg Water Co. pumped water from wells #1 and #2 near the natural spring which flows out of Wards Brook Aquifer into Lovewell Pond. Today, the first two wells are primarily for bulk water sales and a new well #3, farther south on Porter Road, is the main source of public water with a gravity feed tank at the top of Stark’s Mountain to maintain adequate water pressure for ratepayers.
The Fryeburg Water District, is a recent entity. In recent years, the community of Fryeburg has shown an interest in public ownership of the water delivery system. In 2005, the Water District was established by the Maine Legislature and amended its charter two years later allowing the public to “acquire property and franchises of the Fryeburg Water Company.” The District was determined to be the service area, within Fryeburg village, where public water service was available. The boundaries of the district are different from the boundaries of the town of Fryeburg which is much larger than the range of the public water system. Everyone living within the District boundaries, whether they receive water from the public utility or from a private well, are considered residents. And all district residents by law are eligible to vote for the Water District Board of Trustees. As elected public servants, the FWD trustees are beholden directly to the electorate and welcome public input on decisions regarding the safety and security of our local drinking water. Though the private Fryeburg Water Co. owns the sources and delivery system, the District is in place when the opportunity for public ownership arises.
Despite their differences, the Water Company and the Water District are both regulated under the public utility law. The charge to provide adequate and affordable water service is given to both the Company and the District. The authority to sell water in bulk and enter into contracts with other entities for the purpose of providing water service is also the right of both the Company and the District.
Water is an essential need, and because we have a well-established public utility, we can all agree that water matters -- to everyone. In recent years, people have voiced concern about the safety of the public water system due to its age and its condition. Today the public water system is managed by a third party, Maine Water, Inc. who have begun to systematically assess the condition of and commence updating of the infrastructure. Problems or concerns regarding your water service or billing should be directed to Maine Water through social media, a phone call or their website, www.mainewater.com.
The Fryeburg Water District also maintains a website of information for Fryeburg residents regarding issues that surround water availability and affordability. The Fryeburg Water District Trustees are committed to serving the public interest, and we invite you to contact us through our website www.fryeburgwaterdistrict.org. We welcome the public to our monthly meetings which are customarily held at 7 PM on the second Monday of the month at the Legion Hall on Bradley Street. Our next meeting will be on Dec. 16, 2019.
2019 has been a year of turnover and growth for the Fryeburg Water District. We started the year with a board of 4 members, due to late 2018 resignations that we decided did not require a second mid-year election. Our first task was to consider any follow up action on the EGGI Study Review. In March, the president of Maine Water Co. presented a report on the Water Company with predictions about expenses coming in 2020-21. April brought a FWD member resignation as a result of a move out of the district. We held elections for two vacated seats as well as the re-election of Tom Rebmann whose first term had expired. Summer was quiet, but we resumed in the fall and have worked to develop actions aimed at serving the public with water access and raising awareness of the benefits of public ownership.
At our January meeting we were surprised by a challenge from sitting Select board member, Janice Crawford, who suggested our mission overstepped our charter limits. Ms. Crawford attended with a legal representative who suggested we review our mission and align it more closely with the Charter of 2007 which established the Water District. Later in the spring Ms. Crawford also made a FOAA request for our minutes through the history of the Water District. We fulfilled her recommendation by early summer but did not hear back from her regarding her complaint.
In March, Rick Knowlton, president of the Maine Water Co. attended our meeting by request of the chair to report on the current conditions of Fryeburg Water Company’s infrastructure and service to customers. He did not present the 2018 report as was expected, but referenced 2017 and highlighted recent upgrades as well as future changes related to road work on Main Street expected in 2020-21. The Trustees felt that Mr. Knowlton’s report suggested it would not be to our advantage to own the Water Company due to the increased expenses.
In April, the Trustees accepted the resignation of David West as he moved north to Chatham, NH, out of the district. We called for nominations for two empty seats and arranged elections for June. We discussed a ballot question about fluoridation following Mr. Knowlton’s report that it is a choice that district voters can make if we want it or not. We decided that asking the question might invite more interest and participation. A question was designed, but not added to the ballot in the end due to public concern at our May meeting. May was focussed on nominees for our ballot. We received two - Nora Schwarz and Jay Ahern. They got enough signatures to be printed on the ballot along with Tom Rebmann who was running again for a second term.
June elections went well, with a slightly lower turnout than previous years at around 80 ballots cast. Nora and Tom won their seats without dispute, but we had some difficulty determining the third winner when a poll worker questioned if Jay Ahern was not a registered voter if he could be elected. Upon review of the law, it was determined that for the Water District, a candidate need only be a resident of the district and not necessarily a registered voter in the district. These three candidates were sworn in by our Registrar, Debra Tait at our meeting on July 7, 2019. Officers elected at the July meeting were: Greg Huang-Dale, chair; Tom Rebmann, treasurer; Nora Schwarz, clerk; and Jay Ahern, secretary. We agreed to give the registrar a stipend for her dedication and services. New trustees were oriented to FOAA requirements and directed to key documents in our files.
In August Trustees discussed funding flow-monitoring technology for Wards Brook offered as an addition to the EGGI review. Since the town Select board was not willing to fund this we were asked if we wanted to. We determined the cost was high and the results would be unlikely to change outcomes. We also discussed upcoming Planning Board plans to review the zoning ordinances in Fryeburg. Two Trustees were able to attend and talk with Planning Board members about possible protections of aquifer land currently zoned industrial.
In September we held our first breakout sessions on 4 key issues for future planning - legal aid, fundraising, member / volunteer base development and a campaign to promote Fryeburg Tap Water. We had two small groups who focussed on two of these issues. The discussion was tabled and continued in October to include missing board members. The chair wrote our first article for local newsletter, Fryeburg Matters, which appeared in the October issue.
October also saw the beginning of dialogue with the Fryeburg Historical Society regarding a public access water point and pump at the stone trough located on their property along Portland Street. The chair met with FHS who showed great interest in the project and agreed to discuss an easement for the Water District to install and manage such a pump. Legal assistance was investigated and a lawyer found but no contract has been written yet.
The chair wrote a second article for Fryeburg Matters submitted in November, which was rejected for length. It will be resubmitted in the new year following board discussion. The lawyer who agreed to work on our easement project with FHS was contacted again in early December and is ready to start the process with us.
Greg Huang-Dale, chair
A presentation of the data and predictions from the EGGI Aquifer model led to many questions from residents and officials in Fryeburg tonight.
Mr. Dan Tinkham, hydrogeologist with Emery & Garrett Grounwater Investigations, a division of GZA presented the findings of EGGI aquifer flow model to the Selectboard and Fryeburg citizens on Thursday night, Jan. 20, 2019. His presentation included an explanation of how data collected between 2005 and 2017 was used to test the model's original predictions and then calibrate the model to more accurately predict impacts and limits on bulk withdrawals in the future. Mr. Tinkham showed the downward trends of aquifer flow rates explaining them as a result of lower precipitation and increasing withdrawals.
Mr. Tinkham highlighted that the original limits set by the 2005 study were set at 603,000 gallons per day (averaged monthly), 25% lower than EGGI's model allowed (804,000 gpd), to account for possible drought conditions. He proudly noted that these limits kept outflow rates at or above the 400,000 gpm discharge set by EGGI as a healthy aquifer level. Selectboard member, Kimberly Clark, asked if there would be any need to lower the limit considering that at current outflow rates the 25% buffer no longer existed. Mr. Tinkham did not think it necessary.
Other members of the Fryeburg Planning Board, the Fryeburg Water District and the general public raised questions regarding the impact on surface water atop the aquifer or fed by aquifer outflows. Mr. Tinkham reconfirmed that the recommendations of EGGI are to hire a biologist to advise the town on the impact of lower outflows to the surround biota. The hydrological study did not set out to identify ecological impacts.
Downward trends in outflow rates for both the Aquifer and Wards Pond, as shown on the report's final slide, raised questions from the public as well. Indications show that Round Pond levels are also on a downward trend. Why does the EGGI study not look at the high point of the aquifer as an indicator of groundwater health? With outflow falling to zero or below, what may happen to Wards Pond? Does the data from Wards Pond explain reports of low levels in nearby private wells?
This report and the discussion that followed indicate a need for the Selectboard to restart discussions with the Planning Board and Water District in vigilant protection of our natural resources. Our community cares about this resource and it's longterm impact on people and the environment.
Due to the recent resignation, the Water District Trustees will be looking for candidates to run for open seats at our next election in June of 2019. If you care about water resource protection and you have an interest in public water systems, we welcome you to attend our monthly meetings - 2nd Monday of the month. Discussions are open to the public and the trustees welcome questions and comments on all that we do.
If you consider the water service important to your family or the livelihood of our community, you are probably a worthy candidate. Email us with your interest to participate or join us at our next meeting.
Emery & Garrett Geological Inquiries has been employed by the Fryeburg Select Board to review their model using more recent and longer data sets to see if their predictions from the original 2005 study can be verified. But before the study review begins in earnest, the Select Board wanted to know what they are getting for $34,000 raised.
As Hydrogeologist Dan Tinkham rose to begin his presentation, Select Board chairman, Rick Eastman announced to the attending crowd that no question would be entertained until the completion of the study, at the as yet unknown date. He assure the public more than once at this meeting that a public forum would be held to allow questions at the end of the study (projected in the Spring of 2019).
Mr. Tinkham then proceeded to explain how new data has already been entered into the model, as well as worst case scenarios of heavy extraction and severe drought. Mr. Tinkam was able to show that at current rates of extraction and rainfall, Ward's Brook Aquifer would continue to have enough hydraulic pressure to feed the spring at Well #1 as well as Ward's Pond and Brook. Only in the most severe conditions did he suggest that Ward's Pond, and likely the Brook which flows from there to Lovewell Pond, would suffer.
What Mr. Tinkham did not say however, was as notable as what he did. His presentation was aimed at the possibility of reduced water levels, of great interest to the water extraction industry. He did not however speak to the environmental impacts on Ward's Brook, Ward's Pond, Round Pond or even Lovewell Pond, all of which are fed by WBA. These concerns were shut out of the study and even the discussion of study parameters.
Two major barriers remain to fully understanding the impacts on connected wetlands. 1) The sandy bottom of Ward's Brook does not allow for accurate staff gauge measurements and 2) Maine Inland Fisheries will not allow a weir to be constructed where aquatic life must pass. Though the public is clearly concerned about the environmental impact excluded from the study, the Select Board did not agree to move forward on the recommendations that a biologist be employed to assess environmental impacts or even review the Normandeau study done in 2007.
Mr. Tinkham's presentation was professional and engaging, despite his assumption that we would not find it as interesting as he. However, his study is limited by the Select Board and his science is yet unchecked by peer review. Can we believe him? I'd like to, but many questions remain.
Greg Huang-Dale, FWD chair
At the Fryeburg Select Board's April 19th meeting, efforts to continue meeting with the Planning Board and the Fryeburg Water District trustees regarding updates to the 2007 EGGI Aquifer Study were stalled. According to Conway Daily Sun reporter Brett Guerringue, Select Board members Janice Crawford and Kimberly Clarke disagreed strongly about whether these meetings should continue. Clarke and fellow board member Tom Klinepeter, who first proposed meeting with the FWD trustees, voted to continue meeting, while members Rick Eastman and Richard Murray voted with Crawford to discontinue talks.
Though no public input was allowed during the decision on 4/19, FWD Trustees, Nels Liljedahl and Greg Huang-Dale had spoken with Crawford, Eastman and Klinepeter at the previous 4/5 meeting. During public comment session of the April 5th meeting, the FWD trustees were positive and complimentary of the work accomplished during the first (and only) meeting of the 3 boards, but that work could not be completed until an agreement about gaps that still remained in the study could be addressed.
At the April 5th meeting, Selectman Klinepeter made a motion to table the issue until the full board could vote, but Crawford and Eastman voted against the motion. Without a quorum no decision was recorded and so the issue was reviewed at the 4/19 meeting.
In spite of controversy about donations and conflict of interest, this meeting was a forthright and honest conversation about the future protections of the Fryeburg aquifer.
The chair of the FWD, Greg Huang-Dale, addressed the need to understand our boards as equals and to find common ground to cooperate. He emphasized the need to speak openly with each other and not about each other in misinformed ways which might lead to public confusion or anger. The response from the board was minimal. Rick Eastman was the only one to speak, suggesting the FWD conduct a survey to find out the thoughts of constituents on the issues raised.
By Daymond Steer
FRYEBURG, Maine — Fryeburg Water trustees plan to confront selectmen today over their questioning last month whether they had exceeded their authority when they asked about buying the private water works that serves the town and Poland Spring.
The trustees say they also intend to take on one selectman's prediction that water rates would skyrocket if trustees ended up purchasing the utility.
Tonight's selectmen's meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the town office.
The trustees are not on the agenda; however, they can speak during the public forum portion of the meeting, said Town Manager Sharon Jackson.
The subject of the Fryeburg Water District's authority was raised by Selectman Rick Eastman at the June 22 meeting.
Eastman said the trustees wrote to Fryeburg Water Co. asking whether its leaders would sell the private waterworks that is managed by a company called Maine Water. The trustees are looking at getting funding for the purchase from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"I would question whether they have the authority to do what they just did," replied Selectman Kimberly Clarke, who lives in the water district.
Clarke said it was hard to believe the trustees could make such a move without consulting voters.
Eastman replied, "Welcome to the Janice and Rick Club."
He was referring to himself and fellow selectman Janice Crawford, both of whom have long been critical of the trustees.
On Tuesday, Greg Huang-Dale, chairman of the trustees, said in an email that there was "no question" they have the authority to look into purchasing the water company.
"Our charter, established by the Maine State Legislature in 2006 states that the District 'through its trustees, may acquire by purchase the entire plant, properties, franchises, rights and privileges owned by the Fryeburg Water Company," he wrote.
Funding for the purchase could be obtained through a Maine Rural Development program, he said.
Shareholders of the Fryeburg Water Co. have not officially responded to the trustees' inquiries, said Huang-Dale who said there are only a handful of them.
At Monday's trustees' meeting, board members pledged they would not purchase the water company without first seeking a town vote. The trustees also said they would clearly state any ramifications of buying the waterworks.
"I myself would not vote to go forward with that without getting a vote from the district," said trustee Tom Rebmann. "Otherwise, I would vote no."
On Monday, the trustees approved two rebuttal statements to selectmens' remarks. They provided them Tuesday to the Sun.
"We call upon our public officials to recuse themselves from votes which lead to the appearance of a conflict of interest according to the guidelines of the Maine Municipal Association," it said.
Eastman owns a bulk water company called WE Corp., and Huang-Dale believes Eastman's criticisms could create the perception of a conflict of interest.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Eastman said WE Corp. would be unaffected if the trustees took over the water company because WE Corp is regulated by Maine's Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Health and Humane Services, while the water company is regulated by the Public Utilities Commission.
Eastman said he would recuse himself if he ever thought he had a conflict and said he's asked fellow selectmen and the town manager to inform him if they felt he had a conflict.
Huang-Dale said Crawford, who is executive director of the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, promotes Poland Spring and does not promote the water district. He said she should not appear to be working for business interests over public interests.
Eastman said he hoped selectmen can work things out with the trustees tonight.
The trustees didn't cite any potential conflicts with either Clarke or other selectmen Tom Klinepeter and Rich Murray.
Also at the June 22 selectmen's meeting, Clarke said district voters would be unlikely to support purchase of the waterworks.
"I personally don't want to see my water bills triple and quadruple or times 10, which is what would happen in that scenario," she said.
The trustees addressed that comment by saying: "There is no evidence of the need for a rate change if the district were to buy out the water company for the benefit of the rate-payers."
The trustees reviewed the rates Fryeburg Water Company charges and compared them to rates in the other 154 Maine water districts. They found that Fryeburg's rates are about average.
Former district trustee Warren Richardson said there was no way the Public Utility Commission would allow massive rate increases like the ones Clarke described. He said publicly owned water districts have lower costs than Fryeburg Water Company.
"This becomes a 'birther type' thing, in my opinion," said Richardson, referring to debunked claims that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
Huang-Dale said that at the trustees' Aug. 14 meeting, they will have two representatives of Maine Rural Development to take questions from the public. That meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the American Legion building on Bradley Street.
A Nestlé bottled water factory in Stanwood, Mich., produces up to 1,200 bottles a minute and is served by seven nearby wells drawing up to 250 gallons of spring water a minute.
CreditGary Howe for The New York Times
EVART, Mich. — The creek behind Maryann Borden’s house was once “a lovely little stream that just babbled along and never changed for decades,” she says. Now it is perhaps 12 feet across — half what it was, she reckons — with grassy islands impeding what used to be an uninterrupted flow.
“What happened?” Ms. Borden asked. “Nestlé happened. That’s what I think.” A lot of her neighbors think so, too.
Read more at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/24/business/nestle-michigan-water.html