Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday highlighted the Bangor Water District’s plans to demolish a 77-year-old standpipe as she called on state lawmakers to approve her plans to spend federal coronavirus relief funds on water infrastructure improvements.
Mills held a news conference at the water district’s standpipe on Venture Way, an imposing red and white checkered cylindrical tank between the Maine Business Enterprise Park and the University of Maine at Augusta’s Bangor campus.
The standpipe is part of the infrastructure that provides water to local homes and businesses, and it is an emergency source of water to put out fires at nearby Bangor International Airport.
However, it is 77 years old and would be replaced as part of an $8.3 million plan to overhaul Bangor’s water infrastructure. Bangor Water has plans to demolish the 1 million-gallon tank as well as another 60-year-old tank on Hammond Street, and consolidate the two structures into one that would cost less to maintain.
Mills’ Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan proposes spending $50 million earmarked for the state through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the relief package that Congress passed in March, to improve water systems across the state. The proposed $50 million for water infrastructure is part of a $1.1 billion package Mills introduced last month.
Bangor Water District General Manager Kathy Moriarty said the assistance could greatly assist Bangor’s water utility and others across the state.
“This plan will advance projects such as this that need to be done right away,” Moriarty said.
Mills highlighted the importance of access to clean water and high-quality wastewater infrastructure, as well as economic benefits from infrastructure upgrades.
“Clean water is a precious gift we all too often take for granted,” she said. “But it’s critical.”
There were several water improvement projects across the state this year that officials were unable to pursue due to lack of resources, Mills said.
“Maine simply has not been able to keep up with the costs to update places like the Venture Way standpipe and other water infrastructure systems,” she said.
Bangor City Council Chair Dan Tremble noted that the local water district has few resources at its disposal from city revenue. It relies on ratepayers.