The Richmond Utilities District has secured more than $12 million in funding to pay for upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment plant and additional money to pay for an assessment of the pipes in the district’s collection system.

The funding, through USDA’s Rural Development program, comes in the form of a $6 million grant and a $6.3 million low-interest loan.

Between now and October, Chuck Applebee, interim superintendent for the district, said he expects plans to be developed for the work and a public meeting to be scheduled.

“There will be lots more to come,” he said.

Richmond’s aging sewer system serves about 550 customers in the village area and along Route 24 from the former railroad overpass to Bowdoinham.

The last time the plant itself underwent any upgrades was about 30 years ago, and components of it are reaching the end of their useful life.

The upgrades, Applebee said, are desperately needed.

In addition to the Rural Development funding, the district was also awarded a $105,000 loan through the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to study the pipes of the district’s collection system, identify its vulnerabilities and draft a plan to maintain that system. Depending on how much the district spends on the project, Applebee said, the district would have to pay back about half of that: $50,000 is covered through principle forgiveness from the Department of Environmental Protection.

For more than a year, Applebee and the district have been working out the details of the project, which has included collecting demographic information from district customers for funding applications and identifying a consulting engineering firm to determine the scope of the project, develop a preliminary engineering report and an environmental report. In the second phase, the project will be designed, sent out to bid and built. Under the contract, the engineering firm is expected to provide contract administration and inspection services.

Olver Associates of Winterport was chosen in April 2017.

Applebee has revised the project schedule. He had originally anticipated that construction would start this summer. But now, the rest of year will be spent on engineering, with construction expected to take place in 2018 and 2019.

“I hope this will be done by the fall of 2019,” he said.

Because the work is expected to be on the treatment plant on Water Street and the Front Street pump station, he said little construction impact will be felt by residents.

Ratepayers are likely to see an impact from the project, and it might come in the form of higher rates, Applebee said.

“We’ll be looking at how to phase in rates to have the least impact possible, but still pay for the project,” he said.

The district increased wastewater rates by 6 percent a year ago. This rate increase, applied to residential, commercial and government users alike, increased the quarterly minimum rate from $84.28 for a maximum of 8,500 gallons used per quarter to $89.34. The district also assesses a usage rate for use greater than 8,500 gallons a quarter, and that increased from $8.42 per 1,000 gallons to $8.93 per 1,000 gallons.

Jen Anderson, who recently bought the NAPA Auto Parts store at 48 Main St., doesn’t see the sewer bill for the building her store occupies because it’s part of the lease. Even if increased sewer rates result in an increase to her lease over time, she said she supports the investment.

“We don’t want the sewers backing up,” Anderson said. “A lot of the system is old and it needs an upgrade.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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