AUGUSTA — Construction of a 1 million-gallon storage tank meant to help prevent sewage from getting into the Kennebec River during major rainstorms is underway next to a popular city riverfront park and directly across the river from the city’s downtown.

While local officials initially had concerns about the appearance of the tank standing on such a prominent site, those concerns were eased when plans were altered so the tank, when complete, will largely be underground and rise no higher than 17 feet on the river side of the project.

What the tank will look like, however, is still somewhat up in the air.

For now, the general plan includes coating the walls of the concrete tank in a textured surface, likely to be painted in earth-tones to blend in with its surroundings — though the paint color hasn’t been selected yet — according to Andy Begin, assistant general manager of Greater Augusta Utility District.

District officials said they’re still open to something more creative being put on the tank at some point, such as a mural or some sort of decorative siding, though no funding is included in the budget for the project for such work.

Begin and Brian Tarbuck, the district’s general manager, said they invited people to come forward with ideas about how to make the tank’s appearance more aesthetically pleasing, but they have not heard from anyone.

McGee Construction workers dig a big hole for the Greater Augusta Utility District’s million-gallon storage tank Tuesday on the east side of Kennebec River in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“We last left it as a blank canvass,” Tarbuck said of how the appearance of the tank was described when the Planning Board approved it in October 2018. “We will entertain some sort of mural or something at the end if that’s what folks would like to see.”

The project is the district’s most recent effort meant to capture sewage and stormwater to prevent it from overflowing into the Kennebec River. During some major storms, runoff from the rain gets into the sewer system and overwhelms the treatment plant’s ability to treat the combined flow, allowing it to overflow into the river. When the new tank is done, it will collect the overflow to prevent it from getting into the river and, once the storm has passed, the combined overflow would be sent to the plant for treatment.

Last year there were 35 storms in which there was a combined sewer overflow, which Begin said is about average for a year’s time. The new tank will stop most, but not all, of those occurrences.

“If we have a high-intensity storm, like an inch of rain an hour, or anything above like a five-year rain event, we just can’t handle that in the system. We’ll still max out the capacity of the tank,” Begin said.

He said access along Williams Street and down to the city’s East Side Boat Landing will be maintained throughout the construction project.

McGee Construction began work on excavating a huge hole in the ground for the tank in February. The project is being built next to the district’s headquarters, on land it already owned.

McGee Construction workers dig a big hole for the Greater Augusta Utilities District’s million-gallon storage tank Tuesday on the east side of Kennebec River in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Greater Augusta Utility District officials opened bids from firms making proposals to build the tank itself Thursday. Begin said two bids were submitted — a $1.58 million bid from DN Tanks and a $1.67 million bid from Preload. He said the district probably will go with the low bidder, DN Tanks.

Tank construction work is expected to start in June, after which the contractor would have six months to substantially complete it. Begin said the tank probably will be installed, tested and painted by December.

He said the district had $4 million budgeted for the tank and other sewer system improvements. Begin said the tank’s cost came in a bit higher than expected, so some of the other planned work might be put off to pay for the tank part of the project.

He said the higher cost is in part a result of “a very unfavorable bidding climate,” with contractors already having plenty of other work keeping them busy, and having to pay higher wages to find workers.

The district bought property at 28 Arsenal St., containing a home and what was a seven-bay garage, just behind the project site, because the massive excavation project removed a significant amount of soil close to that property. The district paid $158,000 for the property.

Begin said the district had to remove three of the garage’s bays to make way for the tank project’s slope, leaving four bays the district can use for storage. A different garage, owned by the district, was removed from the lower part of the project site to make room for the tank.

The excavation project also dug up soil fairly near piers supporting Memorial Bridge, which towers over the project site as it crosses the river. Begin said the district consulted with state Department of Transportation bridge engineers, and they were not concerned by the digging near the piers, which are driven into underground ledge.

The tank, when full, will hold 1 million gallons, weighing roughly 8.3 million pounds. However, the tank is expected to have something inside it only during, and immediately after, major rainstorms, generally for less than 24 hours after storms.


Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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