AUGUSTA — A proposal to build a new 1 million-gallon storage tank just behind the city’s East Side Boat Landing was approved by the Planning Board Tuesday.

Board members unanimously approved the new Greater Augusta Utility District tank, which will capture sewage and stormwater to prevent it from overflowing into the Kennebec River, despite the concerns of a neighbor to the site. Among the issues raised was the possibility it could stink up the popular city park — which sits between the tank and the river — with odors of sewage.

“I’m not totally against this project, I understand your pain, this stuff has to go somewhere, it just happens to be next to my house,” said Steve Gosselin, whose Howard Street home is near the project site. “I know this stuff doesn’t smell good. So I want to know how it will affect residents. Because it is a beautiful park.”

Andy Begin, assistant general manger of the utility district, said the tank will only have anything inside of it during, and perhaps immediately after, major rain storms. That’s because the district plans to only use the tank to capture combined sewage and stormwater during storms, then release it back into the sewer system once the storm subsides to be treated at the sewage treatment plant.

He said the district also has storage tanks, albeit underground, under a portion of the Kennebec River Rail Trail and Mill Park in Augusta, and those sites rarely have drawn complaints about odors.

“When it comes to odor, the nice thing about sewage is if it’s not there, it doesn’t smell,” Begin said. “As soon as the storm subsides, the tank will be drained. We usually try to do it within 24 hours. So I don’t expect a lot of odor from this tank. But if it has odors, we’ll clean it.”

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. Brian Tarbuck, superintendent of the utility district, 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. In those situations, the new tank would be used to collect the overflow, prevent it from getting into the river and, once the storm has passed, it would be sent to the plant for treatment and released.

Planning Board member A. Delaine Nye said people may be concerned about what could happen, with a tank holding up to 1 million gallons, in a natural disaster such as an earthquake, or flood, or any event that could cause the tank to rupture.

Begin said the tank was built to standards that include the ability to withstand natural disasters. He said it is of a similar design to aboveground drinking water storage tanks the district has in multiple locations across the city. He said if a tank were to rupture, its contents would likely disperse in the area surrounding the tank, and be unlikely to cause significant damage to nearby buildings.

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.

Begin said that site, which the district already owned, is ideal because gravity will carry water to the tank. He said building an aboveground tank will result in significant savings compared to the cost of an underground one. In general, he said, aboveground tanks cost between $1 and $2 per gallon of capacity to build, while underground tanks can cost between $5 and $10 per gallon.

When word of the proposed new giant storage tank first leaked out, city officials expressed concerns the addition of such a large tank could have a negative visual 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

Alison Nichols, a member of the Planning Board, said Tuesday that a 1 million-gallon tank sounds enormous but when viewing a video presentation showing what the tank is expected to look like on the site, it doesn’t seem enormous on the site.

Tarbuck said if all goes according to plan the district could start excavating for the tank this winter and build it next summer or fall.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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