Bath voters to weigh borrowing $9.8M for sewer improvements

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BATH – A $9.8 million wastewater improvement bond goes before city voters Nov. 3.

If approved, the bond would fund infrastructure upgrades and improvements at Bath’s wastewater treatment plant and some pump stations, as well as infrastructure under some roads, according to city officials. The City Council last month unanimously placed the item on the ballot.

The life of the bond would be up to 22 years, with estimated interest of $2.8 million, bringing the total borrowed to $12.6 million, according to Finance Director Juli Millett.

Built in the 1970s, the most recent upgrade to the treatment plant was in 1997.

“It is time to upgrade and overhaul existing equipment and invest in improvements in troubled areas where the city has sewer capacity issues,” Public Works Director Peter Owen said in a Sept. 2 memo to the City Council. “This effort will keep the city compliant with state and federal regulations,” instead of getting behind, he added.

“With this type of plant you don’t wait until things break,” Owen wrote. “It is critical to stay ahead of needed maintenance.”

Wright-Pierce, Bath’s wastewater consultant, in February provided the city with an overview of its wastewater infrastructure – the plant, sewer collection systems and pump stations.

The bond-funded work will likely begin next summer and take a decade to complete, Owen said Oct. 8.

Bath remains under a consent order from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to decrease the number of combined sewer overflows in the city’s system, he explained. Combined sewer is a mix of sewage and stormwater.

Due to climate changes, “we’re seeing the kind of (rain) storms that happened last week more often,” Owen said, noting that a storm of that magnitude statistically happens only every 50 years.

“A lot of … the flooding we’re seeing, we really need to make investments to protect the public from the damages that these storms do,” he explained. “The damage in this case is, we have raw sewage flowing in the street.

“We need to be able to upgrade equipment, and upgrade capacity … and build more stormwater collection systems to be able to handle this, because this is the future, or it appears to be,” 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.