OAKLAND — Just over a month after Oakland’s new $6 million sewer system was slated to be operational, air is the only thing in the pipes.

Late in January, days before Oakland’s new system was scheduled to be connected to Waterville’s sewer district, air blockages prevented water from flowing through the pipes.

So even though the town’s license with the state Department of Enviormental Proctection to operate its old sewer treatment system expired Jan. 31, it’s still being used.

“We’re on borrowed timed from the DEP, but it’s hard to dig when the ground is frozen,” said Town Manager Peter Nielsen. “We’re relying on DEP’s good graces. Oakland bought a system that doesn’t work, and we need to make it operational at no further cost to the town of Oakland.”

Nielsen said he has met with contractors, engineers, government agencies and others to discuss repair options and who would pay for them. Another meeting with the group is pending, he said.

“We’re working hard to get it taken care of so that it works the way it’s supposed to,” he said.

When the blockages were discovered during testing in late January, Nielsen said a camera inserted into about 600 feet of the pipe detected sags where four or so air blockages were occurring.

On Wednesday Nielsen received a videotape taken inside 1,700 feet of the community’s main sewer line. He said the video revealed additional problems.

Woodard & Curran of Portland is the engineering firm that designed the sewer system to run about five miles from the Oakland treatment plant on Fairfield Street, underneath Messalonskee Stream, and eventually connect with Waterville’s system at the intersection of Webb and West River roads.

Pratt & Sons of Mechanic Falls is the contracting firm that installed pipe where blockages are occurring.

About 60 percent of the $6 million project, which started in 2009, was funded by federal economic stimulus money.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program also provided a grant and a low-interest loan to Oakland.

Nielsen said resident sewer ratepayers will pay about $2.5 million for the project.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]

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