The entrance to the Anson-Madison Water District building is shown on Maple Street in downtown Madison in March. District officials have been contending with a string of problems in recent months, including the discovery that state-mandated testing of water at times was not done. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

MADISON — Officials with the Anson-Madison Water District say the district in recent years failed to comply with a state requirement that its water be regularly tested to ensure it is safe for use.

The discovery is the latest in a series of problems to befall the district following the announcement last fall of a Somerset County sheriff’s investigation into the actions of a former water superintendent.

The district issued a notice to customers this week after recently learning that regular water quality tests, reports and filings had not been completed “during the past few years,” according to a news release issued Tuesday by the district’s board of trustees.

The notice to customers “contained multiple disclosures relating to these clerical missteps,” the trustees said.

District Superintendent Matt Demers said Wednesday that with the Maine Rural Water Association now managing district operations, regular water testing has occurred.

“The testing requirements are collected and sent to a certified lab for testing per the testing frequency (required by the state),” Demers said in an email.

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The district also tests the water daily for turbidity, acidity, chlorine and other elements, he said.

“Plus, we do additional testing throughout the system periodically to keep an eye on how the treatment and distribution systems are operating,” Demers said.

There’s no indication that anything was wrong with the water quality at the time that the state-mandated testing was not done.

The notification to customers came as former district superintendent Michael Corson pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Somerset County Superior Court to two counts of theft by misapplication of property.

Authorities say Corson illegally sold old district water mains to a scrap metal dealer on several different occasions from March to October last year. More than $12,000 was collected from the sale of the lines to the dealer, according to a search warrant filed in court as part of the investigation. Only $500 of the proceeds were deposited into the district’s account, the search warrant alleged.

An attorney for Corson has denied any wrongdoing.

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District officials in recent weeks also have been contending with dozens of broken or faulty customer meters. At one point earlier this year there were more than 120 meters not operating properly. Many have been fixed, but the district failed to collect all the revenue that it was due.

Meanwhile, trustees in March filed a federal lawsuit against Corson in which they allege that prior to his firing in December, Corson changed passwords to district accounts and programs. The move crippled district operations as managers were unable to access the district’s email account, the billing system and other functions, according to the lawsuit. Officials have since gained access to some of those programs.

These problems have played out as Demers and his staff work to maintain the district’s infrastructure.

Trustees last month OK’d a payment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for $9.5 million for remaining work on a 12-mile line. Officials have already upgraded around 5.5 miles of the line that extends from Hancock Pond in Embden to Main Street in Madison.

Jim Lord, project engineer at Dirigo Engineering, said the district has improved sections of the line from Hilltop Road in Anson nearly to the Embden Pond Road in North Anson, as well as the raw water pipeline from Hancock Pond to the water treatment plant.

The USDA package included a $3.5 million grant and a $6 million loan with a term of 40 years at a 1.25% interest rate.

“This project will upgrade the remaining 6.5 miles of old transmission main piping between the treatment plant in Embden to Route 16 in North Anson,” Lord said. “This remaining old section of piping is over 80 years old — it’s unlined, cast-iron pipe with leaded joints. The purpose is to replace the antiquated pipe but also to eliminate leaded joints, which is considered a health hazard.”

The district decided to take on the project now to take advantage of “historically low” interest rates offered by the USDA, Lord said.

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