Southwest Harbor is getting $15.6 million from the federal government to rebuild its outdated wastewater treatment plant.
The town’s independently operated water and sewer district, which was a department of the town until 2016, is getting an $8 million low-interest loan and a $7.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund the upgrade at its Apple Lane sewer plant, next to Dysart’s Great Harbor Marina.
Steve Kenney, director of the district, said Monday that the plant was first built in 1974 and aside from a “minor” upgrade in 2009, has not had any other design or equipment improvements.
Changes in technology and standards over the past 40-plus years have made it increasingly difficult to maintain the plant as it is, he said, though the plant has had only one violation in recent memory, in 2016. The volume of wastewater being treated has not been an issue, he said, which will allow the plant to remain where it is.
“We’re rebuilding onsite,” Kenney said, adding that the plan is to keep the plant running while it is being reconstructed. “It will be done in stages so at all times we can use the plant.”
Kenney said a lot of design work has to be done before the wastewater plant upgrade can begin. It likely will be another four or five years before the project is finished, he said.
In addition to the wastewater treatment plant, the district has received roughly $600,000 from the USDA to make improvements to its pump station on Long Pond, where water is drawn from the lake and then pumped uphill and treated to make it drinkable, Kenney said.
“We’ve had four major breakdowns at the raw water [pump] station in the last two years,” Kenney said.
That project, which will be handled by Apex Construction of New Hampshire, will get underway in April.
He said the district is asking selectmen to propose to voters that local property taxpayers repay the $8 million USDA loan for the sewer plant upgrade, which the town has always done for water and sewer upgrades, and which it is doing for the raw water pump station project. Voters are expected to consider that proposal at Southwest Harbor’s annual town meeting in May.
Kenney said the water and sewer district also is looking to fill to vacant seats on the district’s governing board. Anyone interested may contact him or Southwest Harbor Town Manager Justin VanDongen, he said.