ROCKLAND, Maine — The city will need to spend $1.4 million over the next four years to come up with a plan to repair its extensive and aging sewer system. And then the city will need to invest many millions more to repair it.
Rockland city councilors were given a report Monday night by engineers from Wright-Pierce as the city tries to deal with a looming penalty from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection because of repeated violations of environmental regulations.
Terry Pinto, wastewater plant superintendent, pointed out that more than half the 1.3 billion in gallons of water treated at the plant came not from sewer users but from stormwater overflow. He said many of the sewer lines are more than 100 years old, rainwater is pouring into the sewer lines and added water is overwhelming the sewage treatment plant during times of heavy rains.
The director said that all the violations cited by the Department of Environmental Protection are minor and have not threatened the health of Rockland Harbor. He said Sandy Beach, the city-owned beach on the harbor, had fewer closings than any other beach in the state.
The most serious problem is during time of heavy rains when sewage overflows into Lindsey Brook, which runs through the city.
Wright-Pierce is proposing the development of a plan to reduce that flow to the plant. The engineers are calling for the installation of flow meters to determine where the bulk of the stormwater is originating and for the city to continue its camera inspections of lines.
The cost of the study is estimated at $1.4 million. Some of that money is already part of the operating budget for the plant, Pinto said, and industries will be paying about $260,000 toward that study.
Pinto said the city taxpayers have been generous in investing in the sewer system. But more is needed, he said.
“I can guarantee you that there are more potholes in the sewer lines than on the roads above,” Pinto said.
He said that the wastewater department has not inspected one old line yet with the camera without finding a serious problem. When breaks are found, the city must repair them immediately, he said.
Pinto said after the presentation that while it is not yet known what specific work will be required from the results of the study, he knows it will be many millions of dollars. He said if the city were to completely separate its sewer and storm lines, it would be $10 million to $12 million.
The council also reviewed the annual budget for the wastewater plant. The budget calls for a 3 percent rate increase for users. For an average homeowner, that increase will be less than $2 more per year.