The new membrane filtration facility at Mirror Lake, built to comply with new water quality regulations, is substantially complete and will be online and delivering filtered water to the system this week.

“This is a historical turning point for this public water system,” said Aqua Maine President Judy Wallingford, in a news release. “Mirror Lake water has never been filtered since the start of this public water system more than 120 years ago due to the superior quality of the water in the lake. While the lake water quality has not changed, new regulations aimed at increased public health protection now require filtration.”

Customers should see improvement in the water delivered to their homes as the new treatment process will remove naturally occurring organic material from the water and also require less chlorine addition. The membrane filtration technology chosen for the new facility is the first large-scale application in Maine. Compared to more traditional filtration methods, membranes require a smaller building footprint, less chemical usage and less power consumption. Power efficiency is further enhanced as the new building addition was constructed to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, and will use an active solar system. The solar portion of the facility will not only heat the water necessary for the filtration process, but will also produce electricity that can be used to power the new facility.

Funding for the $7.2 million project was provided in part by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, or economic stimulus funds, with a $1.1 million grant and $2.5 million at a 0 percent interest rate for 20 years. All benefits of this funding program are flowed through to the customers by reducing the amount of the rate increase that would otherwise have been necessary.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission just approved a 20.95 percent overall increase in water rates for Aqua Maine’s Camden and Rockland Division, effective Aug. 1, to support the $7.2 million of capital additions and the added annual operational costs of the new facility. This will increase the average quarterly bill for a customer using 1,300 cubic feet of water (110 gallons per day) to $93.23. Most residential customers will continue to pay about $1 per day for their water needs, or less than a penny a gallon of water delivered directly to their tap. More details of the rate increase impact for each class of customer will be sent to each customer within the next week.

The Camden and Rockland Division serves customers in the communities of Rockland, Rockport, Camden, Thomaston, Owls Head, Union and Warren and is one of 20 Maine water systems owned or operated by Aqua Maine.