VASSALBORO — Sanitary District trustees voted unanimously Monday to move forward with plans to replace the sewer’s treatment plants with a connection to the Winslow sewer system.

Before the vote trustees the district manager and representatives from an engineering firm that evaluated the system fielded questions from approximately 30 residents and customers at a public hearing on the project at the Vassalboro Town Office.

Those attending questioned the cost of the project and what effect it would have on their sewer bills. In general, however, most seemed to accept the idea that the district has to replace its treatment systems.

The proposed connection to Winslow would hook Vassalboro into the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District, in Waterville, and allow the district to dismantle its sand filter treatment sites that are past their useful life and could be at risk of failure.

Two of the sites are in North Vassalboro, including one in the center of town off Main Street, and a third is in East Vassalboro. All three sites discharge wastewater into Outlet Stream.

While the small plants were fine when they were constructed in the early 1980s, they are deteriorating from age and are costly and difficult to maintain, explained Richard Green, an engineer from Hoyle, Tanner and Associates, in a presentation to the gathering.

While the plants do not consistently violate discharge levels allowed under the district’s permit, the mechanical equipment is worn out and the sand filters, which are uncovered, are becoming less effective, Green noted.

Moreover, new system will not conform to new discharge rules being considered by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection that will likely be included when its discharge license is renewed.

“There are signs that they systems are on their way to failure,” he said.

In an evaluation of six options to replace the systems, the connection to Winslow was the least expensive, when considering the long-term costs of operation, Green added.

Construction of the lines and pumps needed for the new connection is estimated to cost $5.1 million and the cost to operate the system could be an average of approximately $172,000 per year, according to Green.

Although other options, like constructing a combined treatment plant in North Vassalboro or building separate sites in North and East Vassalboro might cost the same or less to construct, the overall operational costs are considerably higher, he pointed out.

The firm considered replacing the sand in the filters, but was unable to locate a vendor for the specific type of sand DEP requires to use in the filters, he noted.

With only 193 customers, paying for the project will be unaffordable unless the district receives significant grant funding and other financial aid, noted Norton True, a client representative for Hoyle, Tanner and Associates.

Constructing the new sewer line, which is proposed to connect into Winslow near Millennium Drive, should also bring in new customers to balance out the cost on existing ratepayers, True noted. The district is aiming at connecting another 100 users, including commercial facilities, into the new sewer, he said.

“I promise you, this won’t be built unless it can be affordable,” True said.

The average user pays between $480-$600 per year for sewer service in Vassalboro. Paying for the project could increase the rates to $600-$1,000 a year, Green estimated.

Sewer trustees were already working on outside funding from the U.S. Agriculture Department Rural Development program, which could provide between 45 percent and 75 percent of project costs and low interest loans, explained district manager Chuck Applebee. In addition, the trustees were examining other options, like a Community Development Block Grant and funding through a TIF district the town set up around the Summit Natural Gas project.

Applebee noted that there was no silver bullet that would pull funding together for the project.

Selectman Lauchlin Titus said that when the TIF was passed it included an opportunity to fund sewer improvements and would consider how it wanted to use the funds after the first full year of the program.

Sewer Trustee Ray Breton, who the sewer bills for several buildings he owns in North Vassalboro said there was a definite need to keep costs within acceptable limits, but the town’s treatment systems have to be replaced.

“We need to put our best foot forward,” he said.

Breton, along with trustees Lee Trahan, Alfred Roy and Lysa Lovely plan to meet with Winslow representatives on April 6 to begin negotiations on an interlocal agreement for the sewer connection.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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