Rockland Wastewater Department Credit: Lauren Abbate

Rockland’s wastewater treatment plant and aging sewer lines will undergo about $10 million in upgrades, with work beginning next year on some of the improvements.

Rockland was one of two communities in Maine to receive federal funding from the USDA’s Rural Development loan and grants program to improve wastewater treatment infrastructure. Of the $10 million awarded to Rockland, $8,028,000 was a loan and $1,972,000 was a grant, according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

The wastewater system in the coastal city has long been in need of upgrades, but city officials say funding has always posed a challenge. Rockland has been working under a Maine Department of Environmental Protection consent agreement for years to separate sewer lines from stormwater runoff lines in parts of the city’s wastewater system.

In 2016, Rockland voters approved a bond that would allow city officials to seek about $10 million in loans for some of the needed upgrades, Rockland Wastewater Treatment Director Terry Pinto said. Pinto said being able to obtain federal loans for the work is beneficial because federal loans have a longer repayment period.

“We’re very happy with [the funding we received],” Pinto said.

About three-quarters of the $10 million will be going toward upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant, Pinto said. The plant was built in the late 1960s but underwent renovations about 20 years ago.

The remaining funds will be used for improvements in the wastewater collection system, Pinto said, to eliminate some points of water infiltration and separate some of the combined sewer and stormwater lines.

Work on the collection system will likely begin in the spring, however the city is still in the design phase of the upgrades slated for the treatment plant. Pinto said that portion of the project will likely go out to bid in the fall of 2019.

Once these upgrades are complete, Pinto said the treatment plant and wastewater collection system will still need an additional $20 million to bring the system entirely up to date.