OAKLAND — Local officials are hoping to inspect the homes of all of the town’s approximately 800 sewer customers in a bid to reduce the amount of rainwater that is seeping into the town’s sewer system.

Sewer Department Superintendent Boyd Snowden said the inflow into the town’s sewer lines is costing ratepayers.

“We really just need to start going out into the system and trying to figure out where our problems are so we can start formulating a game plan on how we’re going to attack it,” he said.

To that end, the department is working to repair a camera it will snake through sewer lines owned by the town, but Snowden said that’s only part of the problem.

“We could replace every main line in town and we could only get 40 percent of the problem solved,” he said.

What is needed is an inspection of every house on the system to ensure that sump pumps and perimeter drains are not tied into the sewer system.

The Sewer Department will include a mailer with customer’s sewer bills this month asking residents to schedule inspections of their homes voluntarily by March 1. Inspections will be conducted from March through June.

The notice will advise residents about the issue, ask for their cooperation on inspections and let them know that the additional water added to the system is costing them money.

“Basically, it’s a cost to them, because every gallon of clean water we pump they’re paying for, so it’s in everybody’s best interest trying to get that clean water out of the system,” he said.

If the effort to conduct inspections on a volunteer basis fails, Snowden told the Town Council on Wednesday, the department could pursue options used by communities such as Winslow and Waterville, which levy a quarterly surcharge on customers for failing to schedule a sump pump inspection.

“A lot of people don’t want the town coming into their house or don’t really offer up right away the opportunity to have the town come in, so what a lot of towns have done is gone and charged people so much a quarter in order to kind of drive the inspections,” he said.

“We want to try looking at it voluntarily before we try to look at some of these other means to get these inspections done,” he said later.

The inflow of clean water into the sewer system, which empties into the Waterville Sewerage District and then is pumped to the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District, accounts for a significant portion of Oakland’s wastewater output.

Of the 114 million gallons pumped in 2013, 65 percent was actually clean water working its way into the system. Of the 119 million pumped in 2014, 67 percent was actually clean water, according to Snowden.

The cost of treating that water is passed on to the ratepayers. Based on current rates provided by the Waterville Sewerage District, eliminating that inflow and influx could have saved ratepayers roughly $73,800 in 2014.

“This is an old combined system, so it’s not necessarily surprising. There are a lot of old clay pipes, probably a lot of sump pumps and perimeter drains,” Snowden said.

According to John Jansen, superintendent of the Waterville Sewerage District, there are “clearly spikes in flow” from Oakland when it rains. He said it “takes a while” for those levels to go down after rain, indicating there is inflow into the system.

Evan Belanger — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @evanbelanger

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