History of the Water Ordinance Process
Revised July 12, 2019
The towns of Brownfield, Fryeburg and Denmark sit on top of the Ward’s Brook Aquifer. At present, large scale water extraction in Fryeburg is permitted to extract 603,000 gallons per day. Extractions in Denmark are allowed up to 432,000 GPD. It is difficult to determine the long-term impacts such levels of extraction may have on the aquifer, or how such withdrawal levels would affect local water availability, particularly during extended periods of drought. Some town residents have historically experienced inconsistent water supply from their wells.
The Town of Brownfield has had an existing Water Extraction Ordinance since 2004. Since then, there have been significant changes in water extraction technology, an increase in associated costs to towns, and impacts to the quality of life in towns where large scale water extraction has occurred. A recognized need to develop a more cohesive ordinance that financially protects the town from increased administrative costs, while protecting its water resource, resulted in the Selectmen appointing a committee to look into updating the ordinance.
In 2016, members of a water ordinance committee worked to develop a new draft that would address large scale water extraction. Once the committee fulfilled this duty, the Selectmen disbanded the committee. That proposed new ordinance then went to the town attorney, who recommended that parts of the new draft, as written, would not be defensible in court. A Water Extraction Moratorium was brought by citizens’ petition and approved by the voters to allow time for ordinance development and has been extended by the Selectmen.
A group of concerned townspeople, calling themselves Brownfield Concerned Citizens (BCC), met regularly to ask questions, review the draft, and suggest changes. They consulted a team of environmental and Land Use attorneys who have worked to refine the committee’s draft, and make sure it would stand up in court. An independent Hydrogeologist was also consulted. The group held a series of informational meetings and made documents available to update residents about the group’s progress.
Once finalized, the draft was submitted to the Planning Board for their review. The Planning Board worked cooperatively with BCC members, thoroughly reviewing the ordinance. The group made edits to develop a cohesive document and aligned the processes with current Planning Board procedures.
The Planning Board consulted with the town attorney who determined that the proposed ordinance would be defensible. The Board submitted the Proposed Large Scale Water Extraction Ordinance to the Selectmen in October, 2018.
With the large scale water extraction ordinance drafted, the Planning Board took up the question of smaller scale extractions, particularly those that might remove water from the town. Proposed amendments had been suggested by BCC to the current (2004) water ordinance to address these concerns and dovetail with the large scale proposed ordinance. These changes to the current ordinance would provide protections from small scale water extraction operations, while not inhibiting growth of small businesses in the town. Eventually, the Select board, Planning Board, and Town Attorney each suggested that the existing water ordinance and the proposed large-scale ordinance be combined into one ordinance. Several additional months of workshops and consultations produced a comprehensive proposed ordinance that offers the town financial and water resource protections from both small-scale commercial extractions (2,000 – 9,999 gallons per day) and large-scale extractions (10,000 – 20,000 gallons per day), with fewer requirements for small-scale commercial extractions.
The proposed ordinance was approved by the Planning Board and forwarded to Selectmen on June 4, 2019. Selectmen have scheduled the following meetings:
* Public Hearing to review the ordinance for Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 at 6:00 PM;
* Special Town Meeting to vote on the proposed ordinance on Tuesday, August 20th, 2019 at 7:00 PM.
Click here for pdf version: History of Proposed Brownfield Water Extraction Ordinance