Scarborough proposal aims to protect aquifers

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SCARBOROUGH — A new protection district has been proposed that would affect any home or business sitting on top of one of the town’s 10 fresh-water aquifers.

The Aquifer Overlay Protection District, which aims to protect groundwater quality, would prohibit the storage of more than 100 gallons of oil or gas and require that new tanks must be double-lined to prevent leaks.

Septic tanks would also be restricted to less than 1,250 gallons unless the property owner can demonstrate that nitrate levels will remain below 5 milligrams per liter at all property lines.

It would also prohibit disposal of leached waste or sludge in the districts.

Town Councilor Michael Wood, who is the liaison to the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, which created the new district, said the group’s focus was on a particularly large and deep aquifer in north Scarborough.

“Even shallow wells up there perform at 50 gallons per minute,” Wood said.

Wood said the goal was to get protections for the aquifers in place before there is an accident or a new development proposed.

“It’s better to have these conversations when there isn’t the pressure of an applicant,” Wood said.

But the new regulations would also restrict existing businesses, such as gas stations and oil storage facilities, from expanding their storage beyond what is already in place. It would also require some industrial businesses to change where they park large delivery trucks.

Planning Director Dan Bacon said a Dead River Co. storage facility is 1,000 feet from the aquifer and would not be limited by the new district. However, several gas stations would be affected.

“They would be allowed to continue operation, but not allowed to expand,” Bacon said.

Bacon said most of the proposed amendment refers to state rules on groundwater protection, which would give the town the ability to enforce the state’s requirements.

The council and Planning Board will both review the proposed changed in future meetings and a hearing will be scheduled for the public discussion.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or