A crew from Eastwood Contractors of Brewer works Thursday to install a larger stormwater pipe along China Road in Winslow. The work is meant to help curtail flooding that has plagued the area for years. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WINSLOW — Work began this week on a $2.4 million project to improve drainage along China Road as part of a broader effort by the town to stem persistent flooding caused by aging stormwater infrastructure.

The project aims to curb frequent flooding that occurs along the intersection of China Road and Bay Street. The intersection has flooded for decades, filling streets with water almost every time there is a significant rainfall.

Work on the new drainage system is expected to take at least two weeks, shutting down two of China Road’s four lanes in the process.

Part of the work includes installing larger drainage pipes. Stormwater systems will continue to be replaced along nearby Cushman Road through the winter, with the project wrapping sometime next year, Paul Fongemie, director of the Winslow Department of Public Works, said Thursday.

Pedestrians navigate traffic cones Thursday as they cross China Road in Winslow on their way to the nearby McDonald’s restaurant. Eastwood Contractors of Brewer is installing larger stormwater pipes and doing other work meant to curtail flooding that has plagued the area for years. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

While construction could cause delays for some drivers, Fongemie said the work is a necessary part of the town’s efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change by updating Winslow’s infrastructure.

“There’s still going to be traffic, but not quite so severe,” Fongemie said. “It’s just one of those necessary evils. The thing’s gotta get done.”


Planning for the project has been underway for more than six years, and much of its funding is coming from a $2.7 million climate adaptation grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to Town Council Chairman Peter Drapeau.

The work along China Road comes as the council is expected Tuesday to consider adding nearly $1.3 million to the budget to upgrade infrastructure at the Chaffee Brook Pump Station, in part to address similar concerns about flooding.

Vehicles travel Thursday through the intersection of China Road and Bay Street in Winslow. Work is being done to improve drainage in an effort to prevent the flooding that has plagued the intersection for years. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“We’re trying to mitigate the flooding that’s caused by these heavy rainstorms that we seem to be getting on a more frequent cycle,” Fongemie said. “We used to have these once a year, once every two years. Over the last couple years I’ve seen flooding there two or three times in just one year.”

Traffic cones help direct motorists Thursday along China Road, near the intersection with Bay Street, in Winslow. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The Chaffee Brook station pumps untreated sewage in a single pipe beneath the Kennebec River to the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District in Waterville. Originally built in 1970, the station has not been updated since 1998.

The Town Council in February approved the issuance of up to $6.8 million in bonds to finance the project. The council is looking to augment this amount with the $1.3 million.

Work has been delayed for decades on the China Road project and Chaffee Brook due to shifting budgets and other priorities in town government, Drapeau said.


“It’s a project that was kicked down the road for 20 years, and we decided to pull the trigger on it,” he said. “Why didn’t (past councils) do the stormwater project? Because it would have cost money.”

Fongemie said the Chaffee Brook work is essential. If the station’s outdated pipe beneath the Kennebec River were to fail or the station to flood, millions of gallons of sewage could spill into the river, similar to a 2019 incident in Waterville.

“This thing’s like 50 years old. And if it fails, we’re in real deep doo-doo,” Fongemie said. “No pun intended.”

Updates to Chaffee Brook are slated to begin in November, and include new generators, water pipes, pumps, electrical work and more. Aside from the building itself, Fongemie said, there is not much that can be salvaged. Improvements are expected to continue through 2025 due to the extensive nature of the upgrades.

While the two projects are vastly different in scope and scale, Fongemie said they are both indicative of Winslow’s need to adapt its infrastructure to a changing climate.

“We can’t change the weather,” he said, “but we can try to beef up our infrastructure to at least handle it.”

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: