AUBURN — The Maine Public Utilities Commission has dismissed a complaint requesting an investigation into the Auburn Water District, stating that while it raises relevant concerns about water quality, the Water District has taken “adequate steps” to resolve the cause of the complaint.

It does, however, request that the Water District submit certain information to the PUC following any updates in the ongoing litigation between the district and the city of Lewiston.

The PUC response was issued Sept. 21, roughly six months after a group of Auburn and Lewiston residents filed a complaint alleging the Water District has failed to uphold its duties to ratepayers and has failed to intervene in decision-making that could jeopardize the lake’s water quality.

The complaint referenced the Water District’s attempt to revise the Lake Auburn watershed boundary, as well as changes to its septic ordinance, which the residents said could lead to the Water District losing its waiver from filtration and being forced to build a filtration system, which would raise water rates.

Groundwork continued for anticipated development as seen in March at the corner of Mt. Auburn Avenue and Gracelawn Road in Auburn. Lake Auburn can be seen in the background. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

The response from the PUC also says there is significant overlap between the issues noted in the complaint and in an ongoing lawsuit between the city of Lewiston and the Water District, and the dismissal of the complaint comes partly because the parties are working to “find a negotiated resolution” to the lawsuit.

“In the context of the Business Court litigation, AWD and Lewiston have notified the Business Court that they and other stakeholders are undertaking research, regulatory, and policy-making actions that could resolve relevant issues or materially narrow them,” the PUC response said.


Following the submission of the 10-person complaint in March, the Water District and city of Lewiston filed responses, with Lewiston stating that the PUC should open a formal investigation “to determine whether AWD is providing reasonable and adequate facilities and service at rates that are just and reasonable.”

Lewiston’s lawsuit contends that the Water District has breached its interlocal agreement between the two cities by taking actions to amend the watershed boundary and septic rules, which threaten the district’s waiver.

In its response to the PUC, the Water District said because the boundary study is ongoing, and “a significant area at issue appears to be outside the lake watershed, the action, or inaction, by the AWD, has not been unreasonable and should not form the basis for an investigation by the commission.”

Earlier this month, the Maine Drinking Water Program said a new, conservative watershed boundary can be established with current data, but that further investigation would be needed to establish a boundary closer to Lake Auburn. The city and potential developer John Gendron said the decision backs up previous arguments that the majority of the Gracelawn Road parcel is not in the watershed.

The PUC response says the commission is satisfied that the Water District has “committed itself to resolving the concerns about its acts and practices and therefore has taken adequate steps to remove the issues and concerns raised in the complaint,” but says the decision is conditioned on the Water District submitting “certain compliance filings” related to the ongoing litigation with Lewiston.

One of the requested filings is a narrative “explaining what precautions it has taken to maintain the safety and viability of its water source with minimal impact upon the rates for water service charged to its customers.”

Asked Wednesday, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said the PUC complaint dismissal “is yet another win for our efforts to protect the quality of our drinking water.”

“I must give credit to the hardworking staff and trustees of the Auburn Water District for their steadfast support of doing what’s right and not folding to pressure from a vocal minority whose justifications for the complaint are simply wrong,” he said.

Bruce Rioux, a former Auburn city councilor and Water District trustee who was listed as the lead complainant, said Thursday morning that the PUC “should be looking out for the ratepayers” of the Auburn Water District, and that so far, the ratepayers have been responsible for more than $100,000 in legal fees related to the court battle with Lewiston.

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