BLUE HILL, Maine — The town has been awarded a grant-loan package of $2.75 million that will fund the extension of the municipal sewer system.
The funds will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program and will provide a $914,000 grant and a $1.8 million loan to the town for the project. Town officials have been working on plans for the extension for a number of years, and last year voters approved the project.
According to Selectman Jim Schatz, residents will have to accept the federal funds in a vote before the town can move ahead with the project.
Plans call for the extension of the existing sewer lines from the Congregational Church up West Main Street to the intersection with South Street. From there the lines would be extended out South Street to the high point of land near the Barncastle restaurant and also out Mines Road to the high point of land near Marlintini’s restaurant.
The idea is to extend the lines as far as possible while still relying on gravity to provide the flow to the treatment plant, which is in town off Main Street.
Schatz said the main reason for extending the sewer lines is to protect the groundwater that feeds the wells downhill from South Street and Mines Road.
“There have been a number of failed systems in that area,” he said. “And it’s all downhill from there to the wells in the center of the village.”
Tests have indicated there already has been some “corruption” of the groundwater downslope from that area, Schatz said.
“Extending the lines up there will pre-empt the potential for that kind of pollution,” he said.
Providing sewer lines in that area of town, where there already has been some commercial development, will aid further development, Schatz said. Although he acknowledged there are differing views on development in that area, Schatz said that with sewer lines in place, development would not have to rely on septic systems.
“To the extent that development is appropriate, the new sewer lines will allow it to happen without corrupting the water,” he said.
The federal funds also will allow the town to make improvements at the treatment plant itself, including a new enclosure for the settling area and an extension of the outflow pipe into Blue Hill Harbor. Schatz said officials also are considering installing a heat exchanger that would pull heat from the treated effluent for use in the plant itself. Engineers have indicated the device could reduce the use of heating oil at the plant.
The town and the state Department of Transportation have been discussing the precise location where the new sewer lines will run. Most of those issues have been resolved, Schatz said, and the selectmen are scheduled to meet today with DOT representatives to iron out the remaining details.
Although voters approved the project last year and authorized selectmen to hire an engineer, Schatz said, officials will have to schedule a special town meeting for voters to formally accept the federal funds. That could happen within the next several weeks.
The project is ready to go out to bid, and if voters accept the funds, work could begin on the extension this fall and be completed by next spring.