Clearing up misconceptions about Woodstock Spring
To the Editor:
I am Jim Chandler, member of the Woodstock Conservation Commission and principle caretaker of the Woodstock Spring for many years. I and Woodstock Town Manager, Vern Maxfield, wanted to clarify some misconceptions found in the recent Bethel Citizen article about the Woodstock Spring.
The recent closure of the Woodstock Spring was in NO WAY due to human waste contamination. The spring is tested monthly, in accordance with regulations for Public Drinking Supplies by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The monthly tests include total coliform and E. coli tests, and it is tested yearly for nitrates and nitrites. In September we received a test of 2 colonies/100 ml of water of TOTAL Coliform and NO colonies of E. coli. This in no way is an indication of human waste contamination, but raises a flag that further maintenance of the spring is needed. There may be a buildup of roots, soil, or other contaminants finding the way into the spring. If a positive test of E. Coli was found that would cause concern for contamination from waste from a warm blooded animal, including humans. The most recent test of the Woodstock Spring did not show any signs of E. coli. Only once in over 20 years has there been one colony of E. coli. In that instance, it was traced to a squirrel that had gotten into the well house. Since that time we have installed a metal cover over the concrete cover of the well to eliminate any possibility of this becoming a problem in the future. We have never had any positive tests for nitrates or nitrites.
In the words of the Maine Department of Health Factsheet found at: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/public-health-systems/health-and-environ...
“What are coliform bacteria? Coliform bacteria make up a large group of bacteria that are found in soils, on plants, and in surface water. Certain coliform bacteria live in the intestines of humans and animals.
Coliforms are not harmful themselves, but when present in drinking water, disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites may have gotten into the water supply by the same route as the coliforms. The Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL) tests for coliforms as an indicator for possible contamination.”
Occasionally, in the monthly tests we do get a positive test for TOTAL coliform. In most instances this means the pipe from the enclosed well tiles to the spring outlet needs cleaning. As a result of this test we now clean out these pipes with a brush and disinfectant on a regular basis. About every 5 years, the pipe cleaning does not clear up the issue and it indicates that the well tiles and any accumulation of soil or other build up in the spring needs cleaning out. This happened about one month ago; we opened up the well, inspected the spring with the Maine Rural Water Association, scrubbed down the sides of the spring, pumped it out to get out any possible sources of contamination, and treated the spring with chlorine bleach (the usual treatment of cleaning any well). Pumping out the well also allows the bleach to do its work before it gets washed out of the system. After such a treatment it takes several weeks for the spring to stabilize again (this is also why we do not do this very often). After the spring has settled down again we are required to take five more water tests before we can reopen the spring. We took the five tests Monday, Oct. 21, and there is no Total coliform or E.coli, so the spring is open again for use.
That said, that does not mean that an additional fence to protect the area might be useful and we urge all users of the area to keep the area clean. When we first took over the well from DOT we installed a two-tile system with seals between each tile. We installed new piping. There is a fence and diversion ditch above the spring (we are making plans to improve this ditch). We installed a well house and later added a stainless steel cover that is locked down. Over the years we have taken every effort to provide a safe drinking water at the Woodstock spring for all to enjoy. Thank you very much for your patience.
Jim Chandler, Woodstock Conservation Commission
Vern Maxfield, Woodstock Town Manager