Sears Island is seen in this file photo from December 2020. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Searsport soon will have a new, higher-tech wastewater treatment plant that will do a better job disinfecting the town’s sewage before the water is deposited into Penobscot Bay.  

The $13 million wastewater facility is a necessary infrastructure improvement. Currently, the town’s wastewater is processed at a 35-year-old plant that is coming to the end of its lifespan, Town Manager James Gillway said Wednesday.

“It’s still functioning fine, and still has capacity, but is showing signs of age,” Gillway said. “It was built as a primary treatment plant. You bring the waste sewage in, treat it heavily with chemicals and send it out.”  

About 630 homes and businesses are connected to the 2,800-person community’s wastewater treatment system.

The new facility will be a secondary treatment plant, where the wastewater will be treated with both a lighter chemical load and ultraviolet light, which is very effective at removing microbiological contaminants such as bacteria. Then the treated, disinfected water will be discharged offshore.

“There’s just another step or two before it goes into the outfall, which will be better,” the town manager said.

The town has worked for four years to find funding to build the plant, combining sources including a $4.8 million USDA grant, a USDA loan for around $1.6 million, a $1 million grant from Northern Border Regional Planning Commission and most of the rest from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The town will be responsible for repaying the $1.6 million loan.

It will be built on Navy Street, on the site of the current plant, and the town hopes to go out to bid on the project in early June. It’s possible that construction will be finished by the end of the year, Gillway said.

Also in the works in Searsport is a big rebuild of U.S. Route 1 by the Maine Department of Transportation. That project will include a new base, subdrain and surface for the busy coastal thoroughfare, as well as new sidewalks and lighting in downtown Searsport.

“Part of our plan for the downtown is to have brick sidewalks installed with granite curbs,” Gillway said. “And sidewalk lighting, which we haven’t had for decades. Half a century, probably … it’ll be nice to bring that back.”

Another major infrastructure investment that is moving forward is the municipal broadband project. Searsport has signed a contract with Consolidated Communications to install a broadband network, with a goal of creating a town-owned, high-speed, fiber-optic utility that would provide internet access to every home in the community.

The town manager also mentioned the fact that Searsport has been identified as a potential hub for the state’s offshore wind industry.  

“This is a place to be looking at,” Gillway said. “Downtown’s going to become a lot more attractive.”