Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Curt Spalding, Aqua Maine employees and other guests participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 20 at Mirror Lake in Rockport, celebrating the completion of the new membrane water filtration facility, which went on line in early August.

The $7.2 million filtration plant, driven by new environmental regulations, was completed on time and on budget, and is the first use of large-scale membrane filtration technology in the state.

“The use of membranes brings greater filter efficiency, less wasted water in the process, a smaller building footprint and lower chemistry needs than the more traditional water filtration methods, while delivering a better product to our customers,” stated Aqua Maine President Judy Wallingford in a press release. “In addition, the new plant contains solar panels to help support its increased power needs, and the required building addition is designed to LEED standards for commercial structures.”

The project was partially funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or economic stimulus funds, administered by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The benefit of this low cost funding — $2.5 million at zero percent interest and $1.1 million in grants — directly benefits the customers by reducing the amount of rate increase that would otherwise have been necessary if this funding were not available. Through the Efficiency Maine program, also funded with ARRA funds, Aqua received an additional grant to support its green design and energy savings features.

EPA recently recognized this project as a shining star for the state of Maine, acknowledging Aqua’s completion of the project in full compliance with all ARRA funding requirements, and the creation of 26 local jobs.

“The Aqua Maine project in Rockport is a perfect example of how the Recovery Act is making a sound investment in the future of this community,” said Spalding. “Not only has this project generated local construction jobs during the economic downturn, but we’ve invested in cutting-edge technology to protect public health and we’ve included components that will provide renewable solar energy to offset energy costs. Clean, safe water is one of the bedrock foundations for our communities and our economy to grow and thrive. This project will pay dividends for years to come.”

The Camden and Rockland water system serves 7,700 customers in Rockland, Camden, Rockport, Thomaston, Owls Head, Warren and Union (a population of 25,000) and is one of 20 Maine water systems owned or operated by Aqua Maine.