The town of Winterport is in the process of designing a new waste-water treatment facility to meet secondary treatment requirements as mandated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the town entered into an agreement to submit a preliminary design report and final plans to upgrade or replace the primary treatment plant in order to meet secondary treatment requirements.

The agreement also requires Winterport to obtain funding for and construct the upgraded facility or a new facility.

Winterport Water District Superintendent Amanda Smith said the construction of the new waste water facility to provide secondary treatment is the result of a lawsuit against a facility in Portsmouth, N.H. As a result of that lawsuit, the EPA reviewed the permits it issued to facilities that discharged waste water into an estuary.

That review determined that the permits violated the EPA's own regulations, which resulted in the permit for Winterport's facility being revoked.

Prior to the town's entering into the agreement with the DEP, Winterport had obtained a waiver from the EPA in 1985, which allowed the facility to provide only primary treatment for its waste water before it was discharged into the Penobscot River.

However, on March 22, 2012, the EPA sent a letter to the Winterport Water District notifying it that the waiver had been denied and that the town would have to provide secondary treatment for its waste water.

The town had previously been granted the waiver because the waste water discharged into the river would “have no adverse impacts on water quality in the Penobscot River, due to its large tidal volume,” according to a letter sent to residents by the Winterport Water District.

Smith said two other facilities — one in Bucksport and the other in Milbridge — also had permits revoked that allowed them to operate without providing secondary treatment.

The Winterport Water District was granted a new license in the fall of 2012, which allowed the facility to continue operating as if it provided secondary treatment for its waste water. However, as part of the consent agreement entered into by the water district and the DEP, a new facility must be constructed, Smith said.

Smith said the existing facility does not have enough space to allow for a secondary treatment facility to be constructed. As a result, an entirely new facility must be built. Smith said the water district is in the process of designing the new facility, but she did not have any cost estimates at this time.

A letter from the Winterport Water District to customers explained that construction of a new facility is not feasible without sufficient state and federal funding.

The existing facility serves 300 sewer users. To upgrade the facility to provide secondary treatment could cost as much as $7.5 million, according to the letter from the water district.

It is likely that it will take several years to resolve the issue regarding the waste water facility, according to the letter.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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