As regionalization becomes a familiar word among municipal officials, water districts in Gardiner and Hallowell want to take the first step to more firmly connect their systems.
“In the last few years, it became obvious that we’re serving the same area, so we’re saying, ‘Let’s look at this in the best interest of our customers,’” Hallowell Water District Superintendent Dennis Kinney said. “This bill is the first step.”
The bill — L.D. 1756, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Hanley, D-Gardiner — would give the Gardiner Water District permission to purchase nonfluoridated water from the Hallowell Water District.
Gardiner residents would receive written notice that their water is nonfluoridated. Residents who wish to “continue to receive the benefits of fluoride … should contact the customer’s dentist or health care provider,” according to the legislation.
Fluoride, a chemical derived from the element fluorine, is often added to municipal drinking water for the purpose of reducing tooth decay. Critics say water fluoridation should be a personal choice and not an automatic additive to municipal water supplies.
Hallowell residents voted down adding fluoride to their public drinking water, while Gardiner’s residents voted to add it several decades ago, Gardiner Water District Superintendent Paul Gray said.
Though fluoride is not the central issue of the legislation, Kinney said it could create an issue as the two communities try to integrate resources.
Gardiner and Hallowell already share an informal emergency connection, meant to aid one another in a crisis, Gray and Kinney said. An example of such a crisis, Kinney said, would be flooding. The bill would make that connection and aid more permanent and not only a last resort during crises.
“Our sole source of water comes from wells,” said Gray, of Gardiner. “During our dry summers, the wells are running 24 hours a day. We want to relieve some the pressure we face there, and Hallowell does have a small excess past capacity.
“We want to augment our supply by about 100,000 gallons a day,” Gray said. “We’ll buy water for the same rate it cost us to produce it, which is about $468 per million gallons.”
Gray said Gardiner customers — as well as residents in Randolph and portions of Pittston and Farmingdale — wouldn’t notice much change other than a written notification stating the water is nonfluoridated.
If the bill passes, Kinney said Hallowell stands as much to gain as its southern neighbor.
“Hallowell’s interest in this is to establish a permanent connection with Gardiner’s Water District and look at them as a source for water (if the need arises),” he said. “Right now, (the connection) is poor, for lack of a better word. We need to share our resources better.”
Both water districts are separate entities from their respective cities, though they supply public water.
Kinney described Hallowell Water District as a quasi-municipal nonprofit corporation with a board of trustees.