May 24, 2018
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Belfast gets $1M to upgrade wastewater treatment system

By Walter Griffin

BELFAST, Maine — The city has been awarded $1 million in federal stimulus money for improvements to its wastewater treatment system.

In addition to the $1,045,197 stimulus grant, the city also will receive a 20-year interest-free loan of $342,687 to fund the $1.4 million project.

The stimulus plan, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will provide the grant money, which was awarded through the Department of Environmental Protection. The interest-free loan will be issued through the Maine Municipal Bond Bank.

“We’re thrilled we received this funding,” City Manager Joseph Slocum said Tuesday. “The good news is that the rate payers will get $1 million at no cost and $300,000 at no interest.”

Project engineer William Olver of Olver Associates of Winterport said much of the improvement to the treatment plant would focus on replacing pumps and upgrading chlorinating equipment. He said the project would give the plant added capacity to handle wastewater. That will serve as an economic development tool because new industry or businesses could be handled at the plant.

“There is an economic development advantage,” Olver said Tuesday.

Olver said the city had invested millions over the past decade in reducing combined sewer overflow, or CSO, which occurs during heavy rains or when the snow melts. In those instances, the plant is unable to handle the influx of water and has to flush sewage overboard into the harbor.

The clay sewer pipes and storm drains under the city’s streets are 100 years old, and when the treatment plant was built 40 years ago, those lines stopped dumping overboard and were directed to the plant. The city has been gradually separating storm water from entering the plant and installing new synthetic pipes.

“The city had to put together a master plan to deal with CSO and has been working on it for 10 years,” Olver said. “We’ve removed most of the water from upstream to the point where few upstream projects remain. Now it’s time to work on expanding capacity.”

Slocum said the city had completed an engineering study on the project last summer so the work was already “shovel-ready” when the stimulus money was released. The DEP was awarded $30 million for clean-water projects, and Belfast’s was one of 230 projects the agency considered. The city’s project was one of 14 eventu-ally approved by the DEP.

“One of the reasons Belfast got funded is that Belfast has invested a lot of debt in improving its sewer lines over the years,” Slocum said. “We’ve had an ongoing program and we have made a lot of significant improvements.”

Slocum said the city initially applied for a $3 million project that also would have targeted some of the remaining areas where storm water infiltrates the sewer lines. While the work on the plant will begin in July, the rest of the project will be put off for another time, he said.

“This is a good example of federal stimulus money being filtered down through an existing program,” Slocum said. “We proposed a $3 million project and got basically a 33 percent grant. We’re thrilled.”

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