Penalties for the town of Camden’s wastewater overflows into Camden Harbor since 2015 are scheduled for settlement with the Department of Environmental Protection Dec. 2.

The DEP consent agreement sets penalties for discharging 3.5 million gallons of untreated sewage into Penobscot Bay. The agreement is a settlement of the state’s enforcement action against Camden for violations of Maine’s Protection and Improvement of Waters law.

At the same time, the agreement recognizes the ongoing efforts of Wastewater Superintendent David Bolstridge to resolve the problem of stormwater entering sewer pipes and causing overflows. Under Bolstridge’s direction, inspections of residential and commercial properties have been conducted in order to find and correct erroneous connections between stormwater pipes and the sewer system.

Bolstridge has documented these efforts and associated costs and supplied the information to the DEP. He has told the Select Board the town’s  ongoing efforts to resolve stormwater infiltration into the sewer system are a factor in lowering the civil monetary penalty, which totals $25,511.

The town is permitted to discharge daily 1.21 million gallons of treated municipal wastewater to Camden Harbor. In October 2018, the DEP issued a notice of violation to the town for overflows of untreated wastewater from pump station emergency bypasses, manholes and other locations.

The majority of the overflows came from the Sea Street pump station; 24 reported events totaling 2.4 million gallons. The overflows range from 6,000 gallons to 375,454 gallons on April 14, 2020. There were other significant overflows from the Sea Street pump station. On Jan. 12-13, 2018, 363,922 gallons were released, and there were another four overflows of between 180,000 and 267,000 gallons since that time.

Overflows from the Bay View pump station, which is located on the Public Landing, total 1.084 million gallons since 2015. Of the seven reported incidents, larger overflows were 287,400 gallons in September 2015, 251,188 gallons in December 2016 and 213,114 gallons in December 2019. All seven incidents coincide with overflows from the Sea Street pump station.

The Select Board has discussed the impending settlement of the DEP agreement for some time.

Town Manager Audra Caler recommended the board choose a project to benefit the local environment, in place of paying a monetary fine to the DEP.

The board approved a project to move fencing at Aldemere Farm that will separate Belted Galloway cows and manure further from Lily Pond. This supplemental environmental project, valued at $10,000, is part of the consent agreement with DEP. The town of Camden will pay $10,000 to Coastal Mountains Land Trust, which will oversee the work. The remainder of the $25,511 fine is suspended, according to the agreement.

In June, board members were informed that planned work to install a new sewer main on Sea Street and Atlantic Avenue and upgrade pump stations close to the bay was going to resolve only 20-30% of the wastewater overflows.

On hearing this, board members pushed to increase wastewater department funding to more aggressively deal with system overflows. A total of $40,000 was added to the budget to upgrade GIS mapping of stormwater and sewer systems, $45,000 to hire an engineering firm to investigate stormwater infiltrati0n and $15,000 for needed equipment.

Construction is underway on a $15 million upgrade of the sewer treatment plant on Lions Lane. The work replaces most of the buildings and obsolete equipment now 50 years old. Financing comes from a $12.5 million loan and $1.4 million grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and other sources. The plant provides wastewater services for the residents of Camden and a part of Rockport.

Also underway is replacement of a sewer main running under Camden Harbor with an overland main that runs along Sea Street and Atlantic Avenue and connects to the pump station at the Public Landing.

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