NEWPORT – Newport selectmen Wednesday night heard from a representative of the Maine Rural Water Association that if the town’s water source – Nokomis Pond – isn’t protected adequately, it could cost many millions of dollars to find a new one.
Newport is unusual, said Sue Breau, in that its water source is a surface water source. Only 52 communities in Maine have surface water sources, and virtually no other states have them. Most water sources are underground aquifers.
Breau explained that she was sent to Newport to assist the Newport Water District in creating a plan to protect Nokomis Pond.
“This is your sole supply, serving 1,600 people in Newport and Palmyra at 247,000 gallons each day,” Breau said.
“I’m here because there has been so much growth in this area,” she added. Development, highways, trash and recreational activities are the greatest threats to water sources. “Source protection is your primary barrier to pollution,” Breau said.
Breau said that in the last five years, Maine’s drinking water program has identified vulnerabilities to individual water sources.
The recommendations for Newport are to protect the watershed with increased zoning, keep recreational users out, and develop a program that will allow the Newport Water District to increase ownership of property around the pond.
Currently, NWD owns only a few acres near the district’s intake system.
Thomas Todd, NWD superintendent, said he is very concerned because one landowner on the pond has been cutting a great deal of forest land, and that disturbs the soil and increases pollution, while another has a number of horses that could cause runoff issues.
Todd said that on a positive note, Unity College, an environmental school, owns property around Mud Pond, which is the source for Nokomis Pond.
“No doubt, development is knocking on the door. At just 200 acres and only 12 feet deep, Nokomis Pond is not going to stand much developing,” Todd said.
Breau said that state population and development projections show that most of the area in and around Newport will be urban and suburban by 2050. “We need to start discussing plans now,” she advised.
Todd said that preliminary discussions already have begun with the town of Palmyra, since Palmyra actually makes up the largest portion of the watershed.
He said that a coalition consisting of Newport’s public works director, code enforcement officer and area landowners will “sit around a table, discuss the risks and how to protect against them. We need to educate the public and create a plan.”
Todd said the entire watershed will be inventoried and both a management plan and a contingency plan will be created.
He said that Newport abutters have been very receptive and some have agreed to put restrictions in their deeds to protect the water.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed that Palmyra will be a player,” Todd said. “Development is coming their way and [NWD] serves that development.”
Meanwhile, he said, NWD continues to look for alternative water sources. “Next Monday, we’ll have a well driller on Williams Road hoping to find water in the fractured bedrock there,” he said.