OAKLAND — Officials are hoping to fix some problems by the end of this fall in the town’s sewer line, which lets in groundwater, longstanding woes that have cost taxpayers money.

Sewer Department Superintendent Boyd Snowden said they’ve found four target areas along the town’s sewer line after conducting flow inspections and video monitoring last summer.

The problem involves “clean” water, or groundwater, getting into the system, which then has to be pumped to the Waterville Sewer District system, costing the town money. Waterville then sends the combined sewage to the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District, as do the towns of Winslow, Fairfield and Benton.

Snowden estimates that about two-thirds of the sewer line’s content is “clean” groundwater. While he said he hasn’t looked at recent figures, he has estimated in the past that the additional flow could be costing the town more than $70,000, including pump maintenance and Waterville treatment charges.

The four problem areas the Sewer Department found were an abandoned sewer connection on Water Street, a low manhole cover on Fairfield Street and two spots along Oak Street that are collapsed or leaking.

Those four areas are “fairly decent contributors” to an inflow and infiltration problem, Snowden said, so the repairs should help save the town some money.

However, he said there is no way to “really know” to what degree the repairs will help solve the problem. The department only has two meters in the system, he said, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much groundwater seeps in and where.

The department determined sources of inflow and infiltration of groundwater using flow metering, which showed that during and after times of high precipitation, the flow levels in the pipes along Oak Street, for example, spiked. Further video monitoring revealed cracks in some pipes, debris in the sewer lines and roots coming in through the pipes.

However, Snowden said it’s important people understand that the town probably never will be able to remove all of the clean water from the sewer system.

“The goal is to remove as much as we can,” he said. “We hope to use our meters in the future to find new areas of (inflow and infiltration), and estimate the cost of the repairs to ensure that the town is being fiscally responsible with the repair work.”

The overall project aimed at reducing inflow and infiltration will take many years to accomplish, he said, but Snowden also said that “over time, we’ll see our flows reduced.”

When the department cleaned and took video of the sewer main along Water Street, it found a “significant amount” of debris around its connection to Grove Street, according to a presentation Snowden gave Wednesday at a Town Council meeting. The department plans to connect the pipe to a nearby catch basin, which is part of the Maine Department of Transportation drainage system, Snowden said.

The council voted unanimously Wednesday to sign an agreement between Oakland and the Maine Department of Transportation allowing the Sewer Department to eliminate the abandoned connection on Water Street, which is still connected to the town’s system even though it’s no longer in use. If the department’s system overloaded, the town would work with the state toward a solution, which may include upgrading a pipe or installing an outlet from the basin.

The work should start next week and take a few days to complete, and it is not expected to cause any traffic changes. Snowden said the project won’t be a “big hit” financially, with an estimated cost of $3,000 to $4,000.

The manhole on Fairfield Street is in a low drainage spot and has areas below the rim that allow runoff water to enter the system. That would also be an easy fix, Snowden said, and could be completed this fall.

The two pipes along Oak Street need to be lined, Snowden said, which probably would cost more money and take more time, though he said they still shouldn’t have to dig up the road.

The pipe section along Oak Street from Sawtelle Road to Messalonskee High School is partially collapsed, according to his presentation, and he recommends lining it immediately to avoid potential sewer backups.

The department also has been conducting voluntary home inspections to find out how many sump pumps or perimeter drains are connected to the sewer system, which are additional sources of clean water. So far, it has completed 204 inspections among the system’s 800 customers.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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