OAKLAND — The town might take steps this spring to fix breaks in its sewer pipes that allow groundwater and storm runoff into the aging system and cost ratepayers tens of thousands of dollars every year.

Sewer Department Superintendent Boyd Snowden said Tuesday that two meters installed in sewer pipes on Oak and Water streets last autumn have been recording data on sewer flows the department will use to determine where to fix the system.

Although there are small problems throughout Oakland’s pipe network, Snowden suspects that fixing the problems at the Oak and Water street areas can have an immediate effect on the amount of outside water getting into Oakland’s system. Depending on time and budget, the repairs at the two areas could be made as soon as this spring, he said.

“To me, those are two prime targets,” Snowden said. “We might be able to get a fairly quick win from both of them this spring or summer.”

Town officials estimate it costs Oakland ratepayers more than $100,000 a year to treat water infiltrating the system. Last year, the Town Council approved a 35 percent rate increase for the department’s roughly 800 users to cover operating costs and help rebuild the cash reserve it used to pay for expenses so it can fund repairs.

But even if Oakland can deal soon with the suspected problems on Water and Oak streets, there are likely many smaller problems in its system of old clay pipes that need attention. Some of the piping probably dates back to the 1930s or ’40s, Snowden said.

The town also needs to make sure residents’ sump pumps and perimeter drains aren’t connected to the sewer system. The town started an inspection program last year, and about 10 percent of ratepayers agreed to have their systems checked, Snowden said. The department isn’t pushing mandatory inspections until it sees if it can deal with problems from the two areas it has targeted, he said.

Finding all the leaks could take years, and Snowden has said it is unlikely the system will be sealed entirely, but focusing on problem areas might reduce the cost of transporting and treating the excess water.

Oakland’s problems started in 2012 after the town hooked its sewer to the Waterville Sewerage District network for treatment at the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District in Waterville. A new state law prohibited the town from dumping processed sewage from its own treatment plant into an impounded pond on Messalonskee Stream.

That means Oakland ratepayers now pay to transport and treat water infiltrating the pipes. Last year, Snowden estimated that up to 65 percent of the sewage Oakland is sending for treatment to Waterville is coming from outside the system. Because 2015 was drier than the year before, Snowden said the town transported about 20 million gallons less than in 2014, when it pumped 119 million gallons to Waterville.

The Oak Street problem might be related to water seeping into a clay sewer main through an old granite box culvert that drains a nearby wetland known locally as Mud Pond, Snowden said. During a torrential rainstorm in September, he managed to track excess flows from Main Street to the area, Snowden said.

It isn’t clear how much it will cost to fix the Oak Street problem, and Snowden said the town might not get to it in 2016. However, he is focused on tackling inflow on Water Street, which is likely coming from a clay pipe that services two houses in the area and now is acting like a stormwater drain. To solve the problem, he wants to transfer the two customers to newer pipe and either reroute the old pipe to a catch basin or cap it.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.