$1.4M study proposed to detail Rockland sewer collection needs
Rockland — Two Wright-Pierce consultants from Topsham recommended May 19 during a Rockland City Budget meeting that a $1.4 million study be initiated to evaluate how to best separate stormwater from wastewater in the city's sewer lines.
Consultants Laurie Perkins and Victor Krea advised that the study, called a Sewer System Evaluation Survey, should be completed within 12 to 18 months. The study is required as part of a pending Administrative Consent Agreement between the city and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Its results and final conclusions would stem from the use of flow monitors, rain gauges, smoke testing and TV inspection to evaluate the current stormwater and wastewater collection system.
Survey results may eventually involve developing “an equitable revenue source” for stormwater treatment at the city's Wastewater Treatment Facility on Tillson Avenue, Perkins and Krea said during their joint presentation on Integrated Wastewater and Storm Planning. The city's 24 miles of sewer lines, which Pollution Control Facility Director Terry Pinto said are up to 100 years old, suffer from “infiltration of groundwater” into broken or leaking pipes.
Other pressing problems include overflowing manhole covers, a cracked sewer main at the east end of Center Street, and a CCTV inspection of the sewer main on Purchase Street revealing “there is not a length of pipe from Pleasant Street to Holmes Street without cracks or fractures,” according to Pinto's budget report.
Comparing the state of the present sewer lines to something familiar to all automobile drivers, Pinto said, “I can assure you that the sewer lines have more 'potholes' in them than the streets have.”
The city is currently negotiating with the state DEP a proposed fine of $51,000 for exceeding wastewater discharge limits over a period of more than five years, Pinto said. He was emphatic that the environmental harm caused has been minimal.
“At no time has there been a danger level of an environmental impact on the harbor,” he told City Councilors Frank Isganitis, Elizabeth Dickerson and Eric Hebert. He did add that raw wastewater was released into a stream.
Currently, the city has a $3.6 million wastewater and stormwater treatment budget. Eighteen percent of it, or $660,000, is used for treating stormwater flows into the Wastewater Treatment Facility. Of 1.3 billion gallons of total flow reaching the treatment facility last year, 600 million gallons was identified as wastewater, with more than half being stormwater, Pinto said.
Pinto offered that he believes one of two options will eventually be taken: Either a new sewer line, or a storm-sewer line that separates flows, will be created. The city may want to pursue bonds amortized over a 30-year period if that happens, he said.
In the meantime, the $1.4 million study may have $400,000 of its cost covered in-house by using closed circuit television to evaluate sewer pipes, with another $260,000 covered by charging industrial users more for their wastewater impact, Pinto said. The remaining $740,000 could require going to voters, as it would involve increases in property taxes and wastewater user fees.
Currently, the city of Rockland is in the bottom 25 percent of wastewater rates charged to residential, commercial, and industrial customers in comparable-sized Maine cities and towns, Pinto said. Rates are proposed to climb 3 percent in 2014-15 due to increases in the cost of chemicals to treat wastewater, an increase in lab fees to test wastewater, an increase in electricity costs, and other costs.
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Larry Di Giovanni, a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, is returning to his daily reporting roots in order to cover the city of Rockland for The Courier-Gazette. Originally from Athens, Ohio, his family includes one son, Tony.
Di Giovanni has covered news beats ranging from the city of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., to the largest tribal government in the United States — the Navajo Nation. He has also worked as a writer in the public education and higher education fields. He's an animal enthusiast and loves dogs.
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