Plans for a major upgrade to the Camden Wastewater Treatment Plant on Lions Lane are in the works.

In early November, engineers from Wright-Pierce Environmental Engineering in Topsham recommended replacing all of the remaining original equipment at the plant, which dates back to the 1970s, during a meeting with Camden and Rockport select boards and town managers. Wright-Pierce was hired in 2016 by the town of Camden. In mid-October, board members from both towns toured the wastewater plant, and afterwards attended a workshop on plant operatons, revisions to the sewer use ordinance and a discussion of a draft ordinance regarding grease, fats and oils.

On Nov. 21, the Select Board will consider authorizing Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell to apply for a USDA Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal funding for the upgrade.

The cost of overhauling the wastewater facility is in the range of $10 million, and would be financed with low-interest bonds over a 30-year period, according to Caler-Bell. The long-term financing spreads the cost of the facility upgrade over many years, and is paid for by the residents and businesses served by the facility over that time, she said. The annual bond repayment cost will be reviewed by the budget committee, in preparation for a June town vote, and for the 2018-19 municipal budget.

The town of Rockport is also served by the Camden Wastewater Treatment facility.

Wasterwater Superintendent David Bolstridge said much of the equipment at the plant is 47 years old. The equipment has lasted much longer than an expected life of 20 years, because the plant has had great operations staff and superintendents, he said. However,because of the age of the plant's equipment, replacement parts can no longer be purchased.The old technology is also less efficient, which drives up energy costs, according to Bolstridge. New equipment will reduce the energy costs of wastewater processing. It will also produce a drier solid waste product, which is trucked out to Unity for composting. The drier biosolid will cost less to ship, Bolstridge said.

According to the Water Environment Federation, a nonprofit technical and education organization, 99 percent of wastewater is — water. Solids enter a wastewater system as suspended particles or dissolved material, and are made up of human waste, and "many other water pollutants, including food particles, paper products, dirt, oil and grease, proteins, organic materials such as sugars, inorganic materials such as salts, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, cleaning chemicals and hundreds of other chemicals."

The foundation of wastewater treatment, still used today, is the "activated sludge process" developed in England and the United States just over 100 years ago, according to the Water Environment Federation.This biological process uses bacteria to feed on nutrients and pathogens in wastewater to reduce bacterial content.

Modern wastewater treatment plants, including Camden's facility, use the following processes: bar screening to remove large materials, such as rags or wipes, settling tanks to separate solids; aeration and sedimentation tanks, filtration and finally disinfection.  Treated water is generally returned to natural bodies of water. Standard wastewater treatment systems do not eliminate pollutants such as pharmaceuticals.

Other wastewater projects approved

Jake Barbour Inc. was awarded the contract with a bid of $69,900 to replace the Laite Beach pump station Oct. 24 by the Select Board. JBI was one of five companies bidding for the project, and was the lowest qualified bid. The pump station serves the bathroom at Laite Beach, and one other property, according to Bolstridge.

The bid process was explained by Caler-Bell.. Bids were opened at a public meeting, with the five contractors present. Documents are checked to make sure the bids are complete, and if not, they are disqualified at that time. Once the bids are opened, the information becomes public.

Knowles Industrial was awarded the contract with a bid of $13,920 to repair a leak in the wastewater plant's aeration system. The leaking area is located in a concrete aeration trough, and will be sandblasted and then sealed. The Select Board approved the repair Oct. 24. Money in a reserve fund will be used to pay for the repair.

The Select Board authorized the Ted Berry Co. to install a liner in a sewer pipe serving Main Street in Camden and another pipe on Grove Street. The company will be paid $34,380 for the work. Main Street businesses will be notified in advance of the work, which is expected to take 10 hours or so, according to Bolstridge. He said the pipe is accessed via two manholes located near streetside parking. He anticipates that the street will remain open to two-way traffic.