WATERVILLE — Crews Thursday completed installing a 30-inch sewer main on Water Street as part of a two-week project to fix an unusual problem that dumped 34 million gallons of sewage into the Kennebec River.

The project, expected to cost at least $150,000, required team work from the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District, Kennebec Water District, city of Waterville, Waterville Sewerage District and several contractors.

The problem, discovered Nov. 29 at the end of Sherwin Street in the city’s South End, stemmed from a 30-inch force sewer main a contractor installed in 1974 on top of a gravity-driven stormwater pipe. The contractor cut into the stormwater pipe and nestled the sewer pipe into it for a length of about 15 feet and encased the entire structure in a block of concrete about the size of a pickup truck, according to Timothy LeVasseur, superintendent of the Treatment District that has been working on the project. The recent leak was a result of the original sewer pipe deteriorating.

LeVasseur said Thursday afternoon that the final sewer pipe had been installed. He is expecting the project to be completed by Friday.

“We just finished,” he said. “The pipe is all connected, and what we’re doing is restraining it with a truckload of concrete — 12 yards. It’s all poured.”

He said a temporary bypass pumping system that has been sending the diverted waste to the treatment plant at the south end of Water Street will continue to pump waste overnight Thursday at a fixed speed as waste is sent through the new pipe as well, so it can be monitored to see how well it is working.

Part of a 50-by-15-foot excavated hole to allow work on the project had been filled in by mid-Thursday afternoon.

“I think we’re probably going to have to let this concrete harden before we fill that,” LeVasseur said.

LeVasseur said there was great cooperation on the project, which is not always the case when several parties work together.

The public has been patient and understanding during the disruption, he said.

“We had one lady stop at the intersection and I happened to be there,” he recalled. “She rolled down her window and said, ‘You guys are doing a wonderful job. It sounds like it’s really difficult. I thank you for taking care of this.'”

Tired, but relieved the project was nearing completion, LeVasseur said Thursday he is not sure if insurance will cover the cost of the repair.

“It’s a strong $150,000 I believe, but I have not sat with pen and paper to just list everything,” he said.

Contacted Wednesday about the sewage in the river, Brian Kavanah, director of the Bureau of Water Quality for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the incident points to the importance of, and need for, funding and maintaining wastewater infrastructure.

He said the raw sewage in the Kennebec occurred, fortunately, while people are not swimming or recreating on the river. The raw sewage may cause higher levels of bacteria in the river and as micro organisms feed on bacteria, it can depress oxygen in the water, Kavanah said. That is less of a concern in winter because cold water holds higher levels of oxygen than warmer water, he said.

The stormwater replacement pipe had to be ordered from Montreal because LeVasseur and contractors were not able to find anyone in Maine who carried it, he said. The pipe arrived in Waterville Wednesday morning.

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