AUGUSTA — An initially controversial proposal for a riverfront sewage and stormwater tank is set to be considered by the Planning Board Tuesday.

The plan calls for construction of a 1 million-gallon storage tank just behind the city’s East Side Boat Landing alongside the Kennebec River to help prevent sewage combined with stormwater from overflowing into the river during major storms.

City officials and downtown advocates had, when word of the proposed new giant storage tank first leaked out, expressed concerns the addition of such a large tank could have a negative aesthetic impact on the riverfront and be visible from on, and across, the Kennebec River, including from the city’s downtown area.

Many of those concerns seemed to be allayed, however, once district officials presented plans and drawings of how the proposed tank would look. That indicates much of it will be underground, no higher than 17-feet tall on the river side, and it wouldn’t have a major visual impact on the riverfront area. The domed roof of the tank, since it would be set into a hillside, would be only about three feet above the ground on the upper, Arsenal Street side of the project. Mayor David Rollins, one of those who initially expressed concerns about the visual impact of the tank, said after seeing digital renderings of it built into the hillside, he didn’t find the appearance of the tank objectionable.

Brian Tarbuck, superintendent of the utility district, said he hopes the site where the tank is proposed to go, where an old metal garage-type building will be torn down, will look better with the tank than it does now.

“My hope is when we’re all done it’ll blend in more with the park and make it a more cohesive-looking space,” he said Monday.

Tarbuck said the proposal the district is taking to the Planning Board for consideration is somewhat of a blank slate, likely in gray concrete walls, with the idea it could be painted if it appears it could blend in better with a paint job.

“I’m not really sure what the final appearance outcome will be,” he said. “We thought, for now, let’s leave it a blank slate. We have some options for painting it after the fact.”

A previous conceptual mock-up of the proposed tank showed its walls covered with bricks. However, Tarbuck said, structural engineers on the project expressed concerns about having brick on just one side of the tank. He said the structure could still be designed and altered to look like it has brick walls, if desired. Tarbuck also said, if people want it, the district could consider having a mural painted on the tank.

The tank is expected to cost about $1 million and be part of approximately $4 million in work the district expects to pay for with a bond. Tarbuck said the project is likely to require a rate increase, as soon as 2019, but district officials have not yet determined how much rates will increase.

The proposal is the district’s most recent move in an ongoing effort to prevent the overflow of sewage into the river during major rainstorms. During some major storms, runoff from the rain combines with sewage and overwhelms the treatment plant’s ability to treat the combined flow, allowing the combined sewer overflow to get into the Kennebec River. During such rainstorms, the tank would be used to collect the overflow, prevent it from getting into the river and, once the storm has passed and the treatment plant can handle it, the contents of the tank would be treated before it would be released.

In a $15 million project in 2012 and 2013, the utilities district installed two massive, 670-foot-long storage tanks under Mill Park to collect combined sewer overflow on the west side of the river. The district also has another underground storage tank under a portion of the Kennebec River Rail Trail. The proposed new tank would be the last major piece of infrastructure needed to prevent most overflows and be in compliance with state Department of Environmental Protection requirements regarding overflows.

“It’s not something we’re doing for fun,” Tarbuck said of the work. “It’s a regulatory requirement, to continue to improve the water quality of the river.”

The tank would be on district property next to its office and garage facilities between Arsenal, Williams and Howard streets, just behind the city’s East Side Boat Landing.

Board members meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday to conduct a public hearing and consider the utility district’s major development application for the tank, in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Consider a proposal from Adam Turner to convert the parish hall of the former St. Mark’s Episcopal Church at 9 Summer St., which he purchased earlier this year, into three apartments;

• Hold a minor development review to consider an application from Maine State Housing Authority to renovate and partially demolish an existing building to serve as the authority’s main offices, and construction of a new parking lot, at 26 Edison Drive. The state agency plans to relocate its headquarters to the building, which it has purchased, in 2020, moving from leased space at 353 Water St. in downtown Augusta;

• Consider a conditional use application from the state of Maine to expand a parking lot at the corner of 77 Capitol St. and 93 Sewall St and;

• Hold a public hearing and consider whether to add business and professional associations and educational uses as uses allowed in the Regional Business District.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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