WINSLOW — The Town Council this week moved to address a critical infrastructure problem that Winslow is facing by approving the issuance of up to $6.8 million in bonds to finance upgrades to the Chaffee Brook pumping station.

Town Manager Erica LaCroix said at Monday’s council meeting that improvements to the pumping station on Chaffee Brook Road and drainage in the Sunset Heights neighborhood are the “biggest projects of the next five to eight years.”

The work at the pumping station includes adding two new sewer lines and replacing generators and pumping equipment.

The station, built in the 1970s, pumps untreated sewage in a single pipe beneath the Kennebec River to the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District on Water Road in Waterville.

Upgrades have not been made to Winslow’s sewage system since 1998, when the line under the river cracked. That resulted in an estimated 100,000 gallons of sewage leaking into the Kennebec.

Winslow Public Works Director Paul Fongemie said the project will include replacing Chaffee Brook’s pumps and generators. While the equipment is still functional, Fongemie said “it’s just old.” If a pump were to fail, its replacement parts are no longer manufactured.


“We’re being proactive, we’re not waiting for it to fail,” he said.

Fongemie said the replacement pipe installed in the river in 1998 is too small in diameter and occasionally results in overflow during heavy rains. As part of the project, Fongemie said the town will replace the sewer line with two larger pipes.

LaCroix said the project might cost up to $8 million. About $1 million in federal funding has already been secured. She said Tuesday the town also has secured $200,000 from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and that it continues to pursue additional funding from federal agencies.

LaCroix acknowledged the size of the bond amount but said “we are hoping actual borrowing comes in at a lower figure.”

Fongemie said the project was set in motion three years ago when he began the permitting process and undertook a series of environmental surveys, including fish, archaeological and mussel studies.

“We spent probably at least $200,000 just doing permitting,” Fongemie said. “It’s just a slow process.”


He said his biggest challenge will be finding a contractor.

“There’s a very limited amount of contractors who actually do this type of work, so we definitely want to get somebody lined up sooner rather than later,” he said.

Fongemie hopes to nab one of the three or four contractors in New England that can do this in-water work in time for the “very short window” in which a sewer pipe can be inserted at the bottom of the river.

If the town is able to find a contractor in time, Fongemie said the project could be completed by summer 2024.

While the sewer system undergoes upgrades, town officials said there should be no disruption to regular operations. By starting the project with the two sewer lines across the river before moving to replace the pumps, Fongemie said he should be able to use a bypass line.

“The average resident will not notice any difference,” he said.

LaCroix said that even before the project begins, Winslow ratepayers can expect an increase in rates this year to cover sewage services, “given the age and condition of sewer and stormwater infrastructure.”

LaCroix said the rate increase will be determined as the municipal budget for fiscal year 2024 is determined during workshops in the coming months.

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