3 Falmouth growth areas lack adequate public water

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FALMOUTH — A recent survey of the public water system found that most of the town’s designated growth areas are well served, but also identified three underserved areas.

Theo Holtwijk, the town’s director of long range planning and economic development, said the impetus of the study was twofold.

The first, he said, was road work being done near the Cumberland town line on Middle Road, where some property owners toward the end of the road are not served by town water. Holtwijk said Cumberland is planning to expand its system lines to the border, so Falmouth wanted to explore closing the loop.

The second impetus stemmed from the town’s Comprehensive Plan, a document published in 2013 that outlines a vision for fostering development in specific areas of town. Holtwijk said one action item in the plan was having the town be more proactive when planning for utilities, resulting in a Falmouth sewer study conducted by Wright-Pierce. The sewer study led to talks about a similar study with the Portland Water District, which manages the town’s public water system.

Holtwijk said the purpose of the $22,000 study, conducted by Wright-Pierce over a five month period, was to see what elimitations there might be for future infill development, what areas are not being served, and what could be done if the town decides to provide service in the areas that are lacking.

“(Wright-Pierce) found three areas in growth not served by the Portland Water District … and studied those in greater detail,” Holtwijk said.

Wright-Pierce looked at water pressures, Fire Department protection, and how well the system is looped in case of a break in the lines. Holtwijk said the engineering firm gave the town a sense of what infrastructure would be needed to serve the entire growth area, and found that infill development would not impact service to existing customers or to the Fire Department.

“We can handle a lot of infill growth with our existing system,” Holtwijk said.

The underserved areas were identified as the upper Brookside Drive area, the upper Mountain Road area, and Middle Road between the intersection of Deer Run Road and the Cumberland town line. The report found that all three areas have ground surface elevations that are too high to provide adequate water pressure. Holtwijk said the engineers found they could extend lines on Brookside Drive and Mountain Road areas, but there would not be sufficient pressure.

He said the consultant did not provide recommendations, but said the sense was that there are not a lot of growth opportunities in the areas off Mountain Road and Brookside Drive.

“If people wanted public water service there, it’s best left as private thing,” he said.

On Middle Road, Holtwijk said extending public water service would cost an estimated $750,000. He said engineers found they could extend the lines to connect to the proposed Cumberland extension and serve abutting properties.

But if future development occurs and the line is extended, the pressure would have to be boosted due to the elevated terrain. Given that just a handful of homes would be serviced, Holtwijk said staff did not think it was the best expenditure of funds.

However, the study showed that the system has the supply and capacity to meet future needs in the growth areas, so the town does not need to undertake any extension projects.

He said staff will meet with Middle Road residents to discuss the findings. A final report will be presented to the Town Council on July 25.

“We wanted to get sense of how well we’re doing,” Holtwijk said. “It’s really good to know we’re in such good shape.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.