ELLSWORTH, Maine — Goodbye, stench. Hello, park bench.
Now that the city’s new wastewater treatment plant on Bayside Road has been up and running for the past several months, city officials have set their sights on taking out the old facility on Water Street. Demolition of the old plant has begun and is expected to be substantially completed by Oct. 11, Ellsworth City Manager Michelle Beal said Monday.
Exactly how the waterfront parcel where the plant is located will be re-used has not been decided. Beal said the demolition project will include filling in and grassing over where the old plant was built in 1978. Except for where a new pump station was built right off Water Street, the property is expected to become part of the city’s harbor park and marina, which abuts the former wastewater site near the bank of the Union River, away from Water Street. The harbor park and former wastewater treatment sites comprise a little more than four acres of land at the tidal river’s edge.
The demolition project is considered the final component of the city’s project to construct a new wastewater treatment plant on Bayside Road — an effort mandated by the state because of substandard operating conditions at the old plant. The new plant was completed last fall for $20.7 million, much of which was funded with state and federal grants, which includes the nearly $180,000 set aside for the demolition of the old plant, Beal said.
The old plant ceased operating last November, much to the relief of neighbors who for years had complained of odors that frequently emanated from the property.
Beal said that this winter, the city’s harbor commission will begin ironing out details for how to expand the harbor park to the adjacent former wastewater site. With the unpleasant smells gone, the park has gotten a lot of use this summer, including hosting a few weddings, she said.
“It’s a very popular place,” Beal noted.
Currently, the Harbor Park and Marina hosts a full-service dock, 63 moorings, 10 slips, large lawn with a gazebo, barbecue spots and picnic tables. The site is three miles boating distance from the head of Union River Bay, and it’s a quick walk to the city’s downtown restaurants and boutiques. The waterway is frequented by bald eagles, osprey and harbor seals.
While plans for expansion of the harbor park gear up, the city will be pushing ahead with redevelopment plans for the former Knowlton School site, which is now a park, and the Moore School property, which will be renovated into a community center and where a new senior living center will be built. Both of the old schools closed before Ellsworth opened its combined elementary and middle school building in fall 2010.
Beal said that however the park facilities may be expanded, access by vehicle to the park will stay where it is, opposite Washington Street — a few hundred yards south on Water Street from the old wastewater site. Sight distances up and down Water Street from the curb-cut where vehicles enter and exit the former wastewater treatment site are considered unsafe, so vehicular access to where the new pump station now stands will be restricted to city officials only, she said.