MADAWASKA, Maine — Local, state and federal officials on Thursday lauded news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development had awarded this St. John Valley town $6.7 million for a wastewater project.
The announcement, made by USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel, took place on the banks of the St. John River as part of an Earth Day event in the community. The financial package includes $4.7 million in grant funds and $1.9 million in loans. The money will be used to help replace approximately 20,000 feet of sewer collection lines and update a pump station to eliminate combined sewer overflows into the St. John River.
“This really is a huge amount of money and it’s rare that we do a project of this size,” Manuel said Thursday afternoon. “To get a grant and loan package of this size is phenomenal. This is going to save the town a great deal of money.”
The town will replace sewer lines that are more than 100 years old, and the updates to the pump station will eliminate the potential for overflow into the St. John River.
Thursday’s event was attended by USDA representatives, legislators and town officials, along with representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state’s congressional delegation. Ben Beulieu, a counselor from Edmundston, New Brunswick, also attended the event, as his community also borders the St. John River.
“Both of these communities will benefit from a clean river,” Manuel noted Thursday. “And we were so pleased to be able to make this announcement on Earth Day. This project is going to have a significant impact on the community for years to come.”
The state director said the project is expected to put an estimated 300 people to work.
“This project is going to take two or three years to complete,” she said. “So the workers will be needed over that time span. This means that the community not only will get an upgraded system, it also will see economic benefits.”
Manuel commended town officials for working “very hard” with USDA Rural Development officials to put the grant application together.
Sen. Susan Collins could not attend Thursday’s event, but sent her congratulations to the community in a written statement.
Collins noted that the changes to the wastewater system were greatly needed. She added that Maine’s waters “have helped to shape the economic, environmental and recreational character of our entire state.”
“Today is Earth Day — a particularly appropriate time to recognize that the health of the St. John River is a vital concern,” Collins added. “It is fitting that on Earth Day we recognize the efforts of the town of Madawaska and USDA to improve its wastewater treatment systems and insure continued protections of our water resources.”