April 02, 2020

Greenville selectmen seek grant to defray cost of water filter

GREENVILLE — Hoping to play a role in bringing better water quality to some 500 residents, Greenville selectmen on Wednesday voted to apply for a grant to help build a filtration system.

Consumers Maine Water Co., which owns the public water system in Greenville, had earlier discussed with town officials the possibility of applying for a competitive Community Development Block Grant.

If the town is successful in obtaining a $200,000 grant toward the approximately $300,000 to $350,000 project costs, there would be no immediate rate increase passed on to customers, according to Judy Hayes, water company president.

That would be good news for the company’s customers, who already pay one of the highest rates in the state for water. The average water bill is $100 per quarter for water that some say isn’t fit to drink or use because of its high iron and manganese content.

If the town does not obtain the grant, customers will be asked if they want the company to build the filtration system knowing that the costs will be reflected in their quarterly bills.

As part of the application process, the town must demonstrate that more than 50 percent of the customers have moderate to low income. Toward this end, the company will contact the majority of customers by telephone within the next few days. Each customer will be asked if their income lies within specific income ranges, and the information will be confidential, according to Hayes. She said the information will be used solely for securing the grant funds. The customers will also be asked to comment on the current water quality and if they believe the proposed improvements are necessary.

Greenville Town Manager David Cota strongly urged customers to respond to the telephone survey because it will prevent further increases in the water rates.

Hayes expects a public informational meeting will be held within the next two weeks to inform customers about the process.

When Consumers Maine Water Co. purchased the business, it inherited the poor water quality. From 1915 to 1991, Little Squaw Pond, an unfiltered surface supply three miles northwest of Greenville, was the water source for many residents. Major investments were made in the system in 1992 and 1993 to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. These included a new water source.

The change in the water source, however, created some new problems involving a high content of iron and manganese. The new water source had a higher level of manganese in the ground water. In addition, the aging distribution system with many dead-end mains, water lines that don’t feed into lines, contributed to the high iron levels, according to Hayes. The combination of the two has resulted in discolored water, rusty brown stains or black specks on laundry and plumbing fixtures and a metallic taste to the water.

The company, which has worked since 1995 to improve the water quality, has tried chemical treatments and has replaced, extended or mechanically cleaned dead-end mains in an effort to eliminate the problem. But customers are still complaining, Hayes said.

A filtration system, which would filter out the iron and manganese at the well source, would address part of the problem. The company would also continue upgrade the aging distribution system by restoring, replacing or extending water mains.

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