Bath nets federal funds for sewer system upgrades

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BATH — The city is receiving $8.8 million in federal money to complete a wastewater system upgrade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week.

The USDA is providing $6.5 million through a Rural Development loan, and $2.3 million through a grant. The city will also contribute $1 million to the total $9.8 million project from a wastewater infrastructure improvement bond approved in 2015.

City officials applied for the funding in April 2017.

“It’s unbelievable,” City Manager Peter Owen, formerly Bath’s Public Works director, said Feb. 22 of the news. “We have an enormous number of wastewater issues that we’re trying to address. We got the bond to take care of the essential things that we need to; this will allow us to go further, and take care of (other) things that were on our plate … sooner than later.”

Established in 1971, Bath’s Sewer Department now serves 3,218 users, according to the USDA’s project announcement. The city’s wastewater treatment facility will be rehabilitated, aging sewer collection infrastructure upgraded, and combined sewer overflow abatement concerns addressed.

“The rehabilitation improvements address the aging infrastructure and capacity issues in the project area, as well as restore the design capacity of the facility at a reasonable cost,” according to the announcement. “The proposed upgrades, which are long overdue, will help the system operate more effectively and efficiently, as well as address the Maine Department Environmental Protection’s health and sanitary concerns.”

The project’s upgrades “represent the highest priorities identified in the City’s Strategic Plan and Combined Sewer Overflow Master Plan, and will have the greatest benefit to the distribution system,” the statement added.

Work on the treatment plant has already begun and could run about two years.

The city has a combined sewer overflow master list for projects over the next five to 10 years, which are “way beyond what we’re going to do for the bond,” Owen said Monday.

Thanks to having more money than anticipated, city staff will now identify other projects to tackle. Among those may be sewer improvements in the north end of the city, in the area of Willow Street, about which Maine Department of Environmental Protection officials have been concerned, Owen said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.