ROCKLAND — The city’s wastewater plant superintendent wants the public to be aware there may be times this summer when odors come from the downtown waterfront facility.

Terry Pinto said the odors will be the result of the city processing sludge outside while $11 million in renovations and upgrades are being done at the plant off Tillson Avenue.

The majority of the equipment in the plant is being renovated or upgraded and some of those pieces of equipment are so large, the exterior walls of the building are being removed to allow for the old pieces to be removed and the new ones installed. Much of the equipment is 20 years old or older.

“Remember the treatment plant has no odors, it is what is sent to us that has the odors,” Pinto said.

He stressed, however, the staff will do everything in its power to limit the odors.

The odors will be possible during the next three months or so while the sludge processing occurs outside with a mobile unit.

He said the plant cannot simply shut down while the work is being done so the decision was made to set up temporary sludge processing outside while that part of the plant is being upgraded.

“There is no such thing as shutting down,” he said.

Pumps, controls, clarifiers, and other equipment are being replaced throughout the plant. Some of the pumps cost $200,000 each. The upgrades will also allow for changes in processing to be done automatically and end the practice of employees having to go into contained spaces, which requires considerable steps to ensure their safety.

He said the shortage of computer chips will slow down the upgrade that is expected to take two years to complete. The odors are most likely during the next three or so months, he said.

The cost of the project is being financed through previously voter-approved bonds as well as government grants.

The plant handles on average 3.3 million gallons of wastewater per day. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit allows the city to treat up to 4.7 million gallons per day before a diversion system is allowed to be used to handle the overflow and treat once before being discharged into Rockland Harbor. During heavy rainstorms, however, more than 30 million gallons will be sent to the plant because the city’s stormwater and sewer lines are intermingled.

The city has been working to separate stormwater and sewer lines and Pinto said he is confident that within 10 years, 90 percent of the separation will be completed.

Pinto has been the city’s treatment plant director for nearly 22 years. He was hired in December 2000. Prior to coming to Rockland, he was a self-employed consultant. From 1988 to 1997, he was the director of Indian River County Department of Utility Services in Florida.

Pinto took over the Rockland treatment plant at a time when it regularly created odor problems. Before his arrival, the city sprayed vanilla scent to mask the sewer odors created downtown. The Rockland man has also invested considerable time to beautify the grounds of the facility with landscaping. Rockland’s Harbor Trail passes along the property. The city renamed the property after him at the end of 2020.

Sections of the exterior walls at the Rockland wastewater treatment plant are being removed to allow equipment to be removed and new equipment installed. Photo by Stephen Betts

Some pumps such as here have been already been replaced as part of the $11 million upgrade. Photo by Stephen Betts

This is the temporary outside mobile sludge processing equipment. Photo by Stephen Betts