Brownfield, Maine Proposed Large Scale Water Ordinance Q & A Sheet
Updated July 12, 2019
Q #1: Why do we need a new Water Extraction ordinance?
A: The current ordinance does not set limits on the amount of water that can be extracted. The proposed ordinance sets limits to help protect the town’s water resource: small-scale extractions are limited to between 1,000 and 9,999 gallons per day; large-scale operations would be limited to between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons per day. No extractions of greater than 20,000 gallons per day are permitted. Further, these limits are an aggregate total, so apply to any extractor regardless of how many extraction points (wells) they may have.
In addition, the proposed ordinance establishes financial safeguards for the town, placing the burden of costs associated with the extraction operation on the applicant.
Q #2: How does the proposed ordinance provide greater protection to the town, the water resource, and the community?
1. The proposed ordinance provides greater financial protection to the town by including specific guidelines that require a water extraction operation to cover costs to the town associated with reviewing, managing, and monitoring the application and/or operation, including the applicant paying for technical and professional consultants that may be needed by the town.
2. The proposed ordinance provides greater protection to the water resource, should a permit be approved. It places a cap on extractions. It includes specific requirements for monitoring and testing water quality and changes in water level. It requires that extraction stop immediately if groundwater levels fall by more than 3 inches in monitoring wells.
3. The proposed ordinance offers greater protection to the community from adverse impacts, including increased traffic on public roads, noise and vibration, glare from lights, or other nuisance conditions. It also limits hours of operation, including extraction activities and truck traffic.
Q #3: Will the proposed ordinance limit my own water usage on my land?
A: No. That is, not unless you want to start a commercial water extraction operation! Non-commercial water extraction operations (including for public water supplies or fire suppression) and water extraction activities exclusively associated with and necessary for agricultural purposes are exempted from the requirements of the Ordinance. The intent of the ordinance is only to apply to commercial sales of water and water-based products.
Q #4: Why can’t the town, “just say NO,” to a commercial water extraction company if they want to?
A: Under Maine Law, it is not legal for the town to, “just say NO.” Businesses have a right to operate in Maine towns. What we DO have is the authority and responsibility under Maine Law to implement an ordinance that stipulates fair and reasonable guidelines to address groundwater monitoring, public review, and protections for the town and its people.
Q #5: Would property taxes be affected if a commercial water extraction company came to town?
A: The impact on taxes is difficult to calculate. If Brownfield is approached for pumping stations or pipeline development, tax benefits would likely be slight to non-existent. If a bottling plant were built within town boundaries, perhaps there could be an impact, but it is difficult to imagine such benefits outweighing other possible impacts. The greatest concern is loss of water security. Costs might also include reduced property values, increased road maintenance costs, and loss of quality of life factors. The proposed ordinance attempts to address these potential costs.
Q #6: What if there is a drought and many wells in town are going dry?
A: Under the current ordinance, property owners have no protection. There may be recourse under 22 M.R.S. § 2660-A et seq., Health and Welfare: Restrictions on Transport of Water. This regulation requires a company to prove their operation does not impact local wells. There is a regulation (Title 38; Chapter 3; Section 404. Groundwater Rights) that offers compensatory damages only to landowner/homeowner if damage is directly due to water extraction, but proving this is difficult and likely very expensive. The proposed ordinance includes a 20,000 gallon/day cap and an immediate cease and desist of all water extraction if groundwater levels fall by more than 3 inches in monitoring wells. The intent is that implementing these provisions will minimize loss of private wells due to over-extraction.
Q #7: Why does any commercial water extraction company need to renew the permit each year?
A: Annual renewal provides the town a yearly opportunity to review water quality and withdrawal data, as well as check for ordinance compliance. This is an important provision for the Town to be able to monitor the impact of water withdrawal. Added requirements in the proposed ordinance give the Town more information for these annual reviews.
Q #8: What are the consequences of doing nothing and leaving our existing ordinance as is?
A: A Large Scale Water extractor could apply for a permit, meet the requirements set forth in the current ordinance, and be issued a permit. Once issued, there are fewer protections for the town, as outlined in question 2 above, no cap on extractions, increase in costs to the town, as well as potential for unrestrained nuisance factors to the townspeople.
Click this link for a pdf version:Final Q&A_ July 12th, 2019