BREWER, Maine — The city is nearing the end of an 18-year project to separate stormwater and sewer lines that years ago would overburden the sewer treatment plant and overflow into the Penobscot River whenever there was a substantial rainstorm.
City officials learned this week that federal stimulus money would fund the last two projects, one on Tibbetts Street and another on Jefferson Street.
Brewer will receive $1.42 million — a $620,000 grant and a $800,000 low-interest loan — funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the wastewater projects, Ken Locke, Brewer’s environmental services director, said Wednesday.
“It will pay for both projects,” he said.
The Jefferson Street sewer separation project is a continuation of one started last year, and the plans for Tibbetts Street include “removing a catch basin and a swale and putting in new pipe,” Locke said.
The swale is a swampy area that can hold several million gallons of water that now drains into the sewer line and eventually makes its way to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, he said.
“We’re going to remove all that water out of the system,” Locke said.
The Tibbetts Street project is scheduled to begin this summer, and design work to finish the Jefferson Street project should be complete this summer to allow for construction work to begin in the fall or next spring, Locke said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency together cited the city in 1992 for approximately 60 pollution regulation violations, and basically forced local officials to sign a consent agreement to correct the problems.
Upgrades were made to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, and each year the city has tackled a project or two on the corrective list, Locke said.
“It seems like that is all I ever do,” he said. “We’ve averaged about a $1 million a year [for a corrective project] since 1994. This project we’re doing this year is the last project on our schedule.”
Most of the projects have had to do with separating combined stormwater and sewer lines.
“Over 70 percent of the city was combined,” Locke said. “After we’re done with Jefferson Street, it should be zero.”
Brewer also got stimulus funds last year to do sewer and water projects. The city was awarded $3.15 million in November, a $1,375,000 grant and a low-interest loan of $1,775,000, to replace old, deteriorated wooden timber crib work near the wastewater plant where the banks of the Penobscot River are slowly eroding, and $740,000 in April for stormwater and sewer separation projects.
The recent round of stimulus funds is being administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Program, which provides loans and grants to ensure that the necessary investments are made in water and wastewater infrastructure to deliver safe drinking water and protect the environment in rural areas.
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud each praised the investment in the city’s wastewater system.
“Not only will this funding help protect Maine’s environment and facilitate a more efficient infrastructure, but it will also help create and retain much needed jobs in the Brewer region,” a joint statement from Collins and Snowe states.
“Many communities in Maine have aging water infrastructure and are facing major investments to upgrade their systems in order to protect public health and to maintain environmental standards,” Michaud said in a statement. “The resources made available today are essential to Brewer’s water system and will benefit area residents.”