ELLSWORTH, Maine — The city is gearing up for the final preparations and start of construction on its new $16.3 million wastewater treatment plant.
Although some work, including installing new sewer lines, has been done, engineers are working to complete the design for the plant itself. Brent Bridges, a senior vice president with Woodard and Curran, the firm designing the project, said the final plans for the treatment plant and the new pump stations should be ready soon for formal review.
“It’s time for us to start working with the planning board,” Bridges told city councilors this week.
He said they would meet regularly with the board over the next several months and planned to have the necessary permits in order to start construction in May. The project also requires review from the Department of Marine Resources and from the Department of Environmental Protection, which will issue the operating license for the plant.
Bridges showed the councilors preliminary drawings but stressed they were “space savers,” which showed approximate locations of the various tanks and buildings that will be part of the plant.
Crews worked through the fall installing new sewer lines from the existing treatment plant out Bayside Road to the plant site and lines from Bayside down toward the Union River. They also constructed a portion of the access road to the plant site.
The next step, Bridges said, will be to install the out-fall lines into the river and the diffuser, which will mix the treated effluent from the plant with the river water. According to Bridges, the contract for that portion of the project has gone out for bid, and construction should start this spring.
Bridges said the new plant would handle current usage, including maximum flows, and also would accommodate growth in the city. The plant also will have the capacity to generate revenue for the city and will include laboratory facilities that can be made available to other communities. It also will have room to accept sewage from other communities in the region, Bridges said.
The plant will be energy-efficient and, although it will be seen from Bayside Road, he said it has been designed with the neighbors in mind. The facility will be more like a campus, he said, “designed so that there will be no negative impact on the neighbors.”
Councilors, however, wanted some assurance that there would be no odors connected with the new plant. The existing plant has had serious odor problems.
Although he noted that the process of treating wastewater creates odors, Bridges said the plant is being designed so those odors will remain on-site.
“We’re confident we’re not going to have an issue with odor,” he said.
Michael Harris, the treatment plant operator, explained that the current facility was designed without any odor control systems, and the design made it impossible to add odor control systems after it was built.
In the new plant, elements that cause the odor will be removed from the air and then filtered through water. That water will be used in the plant before it is pumped into the system for treatment.
“Everything we’re doing is to keep it on-site,” Bridges said.
In response to questions, Bridges also said the access road has been designed so that it can be extended toward the mall area on High Street.
The city worked for three years to put together a package of loans and grants from various sources to pay for the new plant, according to City Manager Michelle Beal. The final package provides the city with $8.4 million in grants and $7.8 million in loans.
With construction set to start in May, the schedule calls for the plant to be online and operating by the end of 2011.