For the next 2 ½ years, the lower half of Bangor’s waterfront park will be closed to members of the public to make way for the installation of a gargantuan underground storage tank.
Beginning Monday, the city will fence off the section of park that starts below the parking lot behind Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion and extends south about a half mile to Dutton Street, just behind Hollywood Casino. That will allow workers to start preparing for the construction project, which is part of a larger yearslong effort by the city to prevent sewage from entering the Penobscot River.
The waterfront project is expected to continue through July 2022, according to City Engineer John Theriault. It will bury a 3.8-million-gallon tank in the waterfront park so that raw sewage can be collected during times of heavy rain and snowmelt. When the new tank is in place, it will allow the city to gradually send that collected sewage to its wastewater treatment plant.
Without that extra storage space, sewage is currently more likely to overflow into the Penobscot River during those weather events.
City Council and state officials will consider whether to award the project to S.E. McMillan Co., a company that has done other wastewater work for the city and made a $31.8 million bid. S.E. McMillan also recently purchased land on the southern end of the waterfront and has been tearing down the distinctive asphalt tanks that stood there to allow access to the city waterfront during the upcoming construction project.
S.E. McMillan offered the lowest bid for the work. There were two other bidders: Cianbro offered to do it for $32.1 million, and Sargent Corp. offered to do it for $34.2 million, according to Theriault. The project will be funded with revolving, low-interest loans from the state.
Pedestrians and bicyclists generally frequent the paved trail that follows the section of waterfront that will be closed off. The American Folk Festival also took up some of that area during the summer, but the event’s organizers announced late last year that they were stopping the festival.
“We don’t think we’re going to impact any concerts or things like that,” Theriault said. “We’re going to try to make it so the work schedule is compatible with events on the waterfront.”
The project is part of a larger set of changes that Bangor is making over the next decade to follow a 2015 consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That agreement requires the city to make an estimated $62.9 million worth of infrastructure changes by 2031 to stop the flow of sewage into the Penobscot River.
The first leg of the project happened last summer, when the city replaced pipes and a piece of equipment known as a sewage regulator in the grassy area off Railroad Street, between the new Bangor Savings Bank campus and Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion.
The work will also include the installation of a 3.6 million gallon storage tank in Bass Park and a 1.1 million gallon tank next to the Kenduskeag Pump Station off Washington Street, according to plans on the city’s website. The city has recently been experiencing about 21 combined sewer overflow events a year, but officials hope the improvements will drop that number to four.