NORRIDGEWOCK — The town Sewer Department is currently in violation of Department of Environmental Protection regulations and is working to address problems with water clarity ahead of a Jan.11 visit from the DEP.

A monthly report from the sewer plant submitted to the DEP in December showed that the plant’s biochemical oxygen demand numbers, a measure of water clarity, did not meet DEP standards, said Kristina Gossman, chairwoman of the Sewer Department commissioners.

The commission met Monday night to discuss the problem and other items ahead of a Wednesday meeting with the Board of Selectmen to discuss the Sewer Department’s finances.

As of Dec.3 the department owed the town $109,022, although there was money in its reserve accounts, according to the town bookkeeper. Still, some commissioners have said that they believe there is no money in the department’s accounts and have asked for a second meeting with the town’s auditor to take place on Wednesday.

On Monday the commission approved spending $1,500 for equipment that will help monitor oxygen levels at the sewer plant, and Gossman said that right now the town is not being fined by the DEP. The state department has the ability to fine a municipality if they find that no action is being taken to correct a violation and will visit the Norridgewock plant on Jan. 11 to make sure the problem has been corrected, Gossman said.

In the meantime the repair is one example of the need for an engineering firm to evaluate the sewer plant, according to Gossman and other commissioners who also planned Monday night to put the request for an engineering firm out to bid.

“We’re at the point now that (the sewer plant) needs so much help it’s beyond what we can do,” said Commissioner Josh Chartrand. “We need to bring an engineering firm in.”

Commissioners Monday night also discussed Wednesday’s upcoming meeting with auditor Ron Smith and the Board of Selectmen.

The commission had originally planned to ask the board last month about the possibility of using tipping fees from Norridgewock’s Waste Management to bring the Sewer Department out of debt, but the subject was never brought up at the last board meeting.

Instead, the focus was on a meeting between the sewer commissioners and Smith in which he allegedly told them the department had no money. Smith, in an interview with the Morning Sentinel, said he did not literally mean the department had no finances, just that they were in debt to the town.

“The way I understand it, it was a miscommunication between him and us in saying we had no money in our accounts,” Gossman said Monday night. “What he was implying was that because of the amount of money we owe the town for past debt, it almost washes out what we have in our accounts.”

Commissioner Ron Currier, along with Bruce Obert and Charlotte Curtis, has maintained that the commission is not clear on where they stand financially in part because of Smith’s statements at his meeting with the commission.

“He said, ‘You have no money.’ He was very firm about that,” Currier said. “That straightened me right out. If we’re broke and we have no money in those reserve accounts, but all year long on paper it showed that we did, where did that money go?”

The Board of Selectmen meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the town office.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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