VASSALBORO — The Vassalboro Sanitary District has just one more hurdle to clear before it can begin work on overhauling much of its 30-year-old wastewater system.

After a three-year effort to secure the money to fund the project, the town of Vassalboro is applying for a public infrastructure grant of about $1 million through the state’s community development block grant program on behalf of the district, which, upon approval, would shore up the $7.1 million needed for the district’s construction of new wastewater pumping stations and a force main transition pipeline to move Vassalboro’s wastewater to Winslow’s sewer system. Federal and state grants and loans make up most of the $6.1 million the district already has secured to fund the project.

The district’s board of trustees discussed the need for the grant and the purpose of the project at a public hearing Thursday evening at the Town Office.

The need for the overhaul stems from the fact that the district’s equipment is nearly obsolete. The system that the town currently uses is over 30 years old and has come to the end of its life, according to Ray Breton, the chairman of the district’s trustees. The three pumping stations, which are located in East and North Vassalboro, were constructed in the 1980s and haven’t had any major upgrades since then.

“It’s time to revamp everything,” Breton said during an interview before the hearing. “It’s maxed out and barely meeting the requirements of the state.”

The district currently uses open sand filters to treat the water, which is creating a health hazard and an odorous nuisance for residents. Additionally, the sand filters can’t remove phosphorous from the water that’s discharged into Outlet Stream, which will be required under new state restrictions.

Another problem, the board said, is that the equipment’s frequent failure can result in high-cost emergency operation and sewage overflow.

The board said the project also could benefit the alewife fishery restoration effort.

Once the project is complete, the sand filters would be removed and grass will be planted in that location.

The original projection of the cost of the project was $6.1 million, but that estimate has increased by $1 million because of several factors, the board said. One of them is that a lot of time has passed since they got the original projection, and during that time construction prices have risen.

The project’s annual cost is expected to be $280,000, which probably would be paid for through charges to the district’s 196 customers.

“We have to do it, and we don’t have much of a choice,” Breton said. “What it costs is what it costs.”

The district expects to be notified by June 1 about whether its grant application has been approved. If it is approved, the district hopes to begin construction by September and complete the work in September 2019.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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