Rockland's wastewater treatment plant will undergo $10 million in upgrades, likely starting next year.

Wastewater Director Terry Pinto said this will be the largest series of improvements since a project in 2000. The plant was built beginning in 1976.

Rockland voters approved a $10.4 million bond issue in 2016 for the work.

U.S. Sens Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, issued a joint news release Dec. 4 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program had approved an $8,028,000 loan to the city and a grant of $1,972,000.

Pinto said that getting the loan from Rural Development would save money versus getting bonds through, for example, the Maine Bond Bank. The Rural Development agency also allows a longer repayment period for its loan.

The money will rehabilitate the city’s wastewater treatment facility, upgrade some aging sewer lines, and repair some combined sewer overflow abatement issues.

The wastewater system is in need of immediate upgrades, according to the news release. Some of the plant's original equipment and processes are more than 40 years old, and the overall facility is well beyond the 20-year useful life for which it was originally designed.

"The plant is now at an age where it has a greater chance of equipment failure, and it has incurred increased maintenance needs. Several key unit processes at the plant are inefficient, inadequate, or obsolete," the news release states.

The upgrades included the highest priorities identified in the city's Strategic Plan and Combined Sewer Overflow Master Plan and will have the greatest benefit to the distribution system, which serves 2,943 users, according to the release.