SKOWHEGAN — A section of North Avenue from near Chandler Street to High Street will be closed to southbound traffic for the rest of the summer, as the town completes the latest phase of its combined sewer overflow, or stormwater separation project. The work is set to begin at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Right now, the sewer and the stormwater flow in the same pipe. That pipe goes to the town’s pollution control plant. The CSO project takes the sewer discharge out of the pipe, separating it from the stormwater from rain or melting snow.

When the project is done, the stormwater will go directly into the river. The sewer waste will be directed to the town’s waste treatment plant.

With the completion of the project, every home along the route will be hooked directly into the town sewer system. Pipes that currently empty into the storm drain will be moved over to the sewer line.

“When we do that, we’re going to put all new piping that’s in the road or in the right-of-way, so that way we won’t have any problems in the future with that section,” Road Commissioner Greg Dore said. “From the house to the edge of the right-of-way will remain the same.”

Dore said the majority of the work will be done on the west side of North Avenue in the southbound travel lane. Traffic will be diverted down Jewett Street to Madison Avenue and over to High Street where motorists can reconnect with North Avenue.

“It’s detouring the southbound traffic around,” Town Manager Christine Almand said. “Going north, you can go all the way through. They’re going to keep that travel lane open heading north. We’re trying to detour the flow of traffic to reduce the traffic count so that they can get the work done.”

North Avenue is also an extension of state Route 150.

“We don’t want all the traffic coming down 150 to have to go through flaggers,” Almand said. “It’s easier to detour that amount of traffic. The individuals in the neighborhoods will be able to come out, but they’re going to have a little bit of a delay to get southbound.”

Combined sewer systems are designed to collect rainwater runoff and domestic sewage in the same pipe. Most of the time, combined sewer systems transport all of the wastewater to a sewage treatment plant, where it is treated and then discharged to a water body, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency web site.

During periods of heavy rainfall or snow melt, however, the wastewater volume in a combined sewer system can exceed the capacity of the sewer system or treatment plant. For this reason, combined sewer systems are designed to overflow occasionally and discharge excess wastewater directly into the river.

These overflows, called combined sewer overflows, contain not only stormwater but also untreated human waste and some toxic materials such as lawn fertilizer and debris. They are a major water pollution concern for the approximately 772 cities in the U.S. that have combined sewer systems, according to the EPA.

In Skowhegan, work began separating stormwater from household waste with Phase 1 of the project in 2001, when voters at the March annual Town Meeting agreed to borrow $4.8 million for the project. For Phase 2, in March 2004, voters agreed to borrow $6.65 million. Phase 3 began in 2013, with a voter-approved bond of $11.88 million.

The annual Town Meeting in Skowhegan moved from March to June in 2007 to better coincide with the annual school budget.

“We had to meet DEP regulations to reduce our combined sewer overflow,” Almand said Monday.

Almand and Dore said pollution control is the object of the project, but reduced costs from not treating stormwater at the pollution control plant also is a factor.

Almand said notices of the work on North Avenue were sent out to 86 residents along the construction route. There will be some traffic delays, but all the businesses on North Avenue will be open as usual.

In some areas, the existing sewer line will be replaced, Dore said. In others, the pipe will be relined.

“In the late 1980s the town put in a storm drain, but they didn’t separate the sewer from the storm drain,” Dore said. “That storm drain still went all the way down to the plant. Now we don’t have to treat stormwater. And overflows are less likely to happen.”

Dore said overflows occur during heavy rain events when the system fills up to a point that it can’t handle the flow, and relief valves, or outflows, are activated and it dumps stormwater and raw sewage into the river. The CSO project will help prevent that from happening again. Almand said after this phase of the project is completed on North Avenue and a small section of Madison Avenue, the town will update the “master plan” of the project and be able to calculate the cost savings as well.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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