Dear Mr. James R. Costello, Sr.,
Publisher SunJournal, here are my comments you have asked for and the issues relative to the article written last month by Mr. Scott Taylor. Mr. Taylor did well absorbing and reporting, however, he may have benefited by knowing this information below with regard to the lake association wanting to ease septic standards:
Prior to my public awareness efforts, the 36 inch watershed septic ordinance had been "used" by water authorities to manage city leadership and the general public into thinking that requiring an extensive soil depth requirement for wastewater disposal systems was good for those septic systems and in the best interest of our water supply, Lake Auburn.
Today, state wastewater experts and the septic industry are advising that these systems are not in the best interest of watersheds because of the required depth and soil type this ordinance finds. In fact, four recently permitted sites, and two others currently in operation in the Lake Auburn Watershed will pollute the aquifers located directly below them for this reason, up to 2400 gallons a day! 35 others since 1993 have been polluting for years! This widely accepted and scientific protocol of effluent absorption rates was known back when the City of Auburn created 5.3 (c) 5 of the Lake Auburn Overlay district. The Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission (LAWPeC) continues to influenced Auburn and Lewiston into believing this 36 inch ordinance is a normal community solution to watershed management. It is not. We do not know of a single community who has anything greater than 15 inches, whereas the state of Maine maintains 12 inches, and now proposing a change to 7 inches! Septic systems are not soil dependent in the design phase. When building a new or replacement system, a contractor can simply remove those soils not acceptable and replace them with the required inches of course gravelly sand suitable for today's systems without declaring a home site unbuildable. In addition a "lining" can be installed to prevent loss of proper effluent treatment. This is what is normally done in the industry. Water authorities are manipulating the land in the watershed because this misunderstanding of the ordinance, which is a CITY rule, is legally unrelated to the separate LAWPeC and Auburn Water District quasi-municipalities.
The reality of the situation is that this ordinance has been used for years as a defacto-zoning tool specifically designed to prohibit reasonable development, development that may cause other point-source pollution identified as REAL threats! So far, the City's only valid defense, to disregard expert opinions, is that it may be legal (face value) to have such an ordinance, even if it makes no specific, meaningful sense. The LAWPeC and AWD as well as the Lewiston Water Division are constantly reminding this community that any changes to the fragile state of this lake could potentially create a financial hardship by requiring
extensive water filtration. They shift this responsibility for potential disruption of our waiver of filtration from one pollution threat to another depending on who the audience is and what the perceived threat of the day is. Additional water filtration is inevitable because the EPA plans stricter requirements as time passes and our Lake is suffering from many issues, most not related to development. See the latest water quality report issued a few months back by the Auburn Water District's water quality manager. Next EPA updates for L/A is 2012, when UV treatment must be built and paid for by our tax payers. With regard to this septic issue, I feel as though the water Commissioner's and Trustee's are valiantly supporting and protecting the men responsible for these miscalculations and are not supporting their core goal, protect the water!
How can our leadership and water authority see clearly? It is hard when they might be considering the consequences for allowing, for so many years, an ordinance that has discriminately devalued lands and deprived watershed property owners in an effort to pad the coffers of their land holdings. We are not talking sprawl, McDevelopments and major subdivision. These are good people wanting to build with 4 to 100 acres that want to sell a lot to offset fixed incomes and rising expenses or to simply have their children move in next to them. Environmentalist, conservation representatives and land consultants will tell you that today's average home in the watershed needs between 4 and 6 acres to build without any pollution threat. These home plans need to meet other watershed overlay ordinances existing today, before any permit is issued and before the dirt is disturbed. Unfortunately, more people today are aware that even if you meet and exceed the current rules, you are still subject to unnecessary harassment throughout the "process" of acquiring permits for new homes and other allowed changes to impervious areas. Unless of course you have something to trade to the Commission or you might be affiliated with the water authorities. See news at the website www.auburnwatershed.org.
If it were not for the new faces and the professionalism from Auburn's Planning and Permitting Department, and today's public scrutiny of Government, the blinded pestering would have continued until some other individual deemed it necessary to say "enough." Thank you to the men and women who have been doing their jobs well, under a great deal of pressure!
What is the solution? I am afraid to say politics will prevail. Although well educated, sincere and meaningful city leaders want to do something to repair the situation, they could not possibly do it without jeopardizing the balance of our municipal relationship with those chartered to do "whatever is necessary" to protect our water source. The most intelligent, experienced human resources and economic development workforce in this city have taken a political, non scientific stance in recent workshops, presentations and hearings. It is possible they feel once the bureaucratic process is complete that this issue will just go away.
What would I do if I was in a position to vote? I would immediately support the initiative to change an ordinance that is discriminating property owners in the watershed, today to a tune of $80,000.00 devaluation per house lot! In the same breath I would support and implement STRAIT FORWARD, performance based septic and point-source pollution ordinances that will scientifically protect the water that serves this community. I would address the lake community with regard to the past and continue and build on good programs for the future. It is important to kindle the support from our watershed neighbors and users, those who "see" the threats occurring first. I would strive to represent the people fairly. Do I sound like a politician? Those who know me today know that I AM NOT. I am an airline pilot/engineer with a family and a hobby for ditch digging and inspecting septic systems in the watershed (LakeSeptics@cs.com.) I have been labeled as one to gain monetarily from a change; this is not true but a true reflection of other uninformed misunderstandings. I would welcome a site visit anytime from anyone to clear the water.
So, to the publisher of the Sun Journal, Mr. James Costello, Sr., thank you for your letter asking me if the article, the news you printed is fair and accurate as possible. It is because of this follow-up from you that today I am hopeful these cities and their leaders and its newspapers can take care of the issues within.
Dan Bilodeau, 207 North Auburn Road. Lake Auburn Watershed Neighborhood Association (LAWNA)firstname.lastname@example.org
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