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USDA grants $22.1 Million for environmental improvements in western Maine
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USDA grants $22.1 Million for environmental improvements in western Maine

USDA awards $22.1 million for environmental improvements in western Maine

RUMFORD Rumford The Rumford Mexico Sewerage District, Mexico Water District and Androscoggin Vall Council of Governments will all receive $22.1 Million for projects in Androscoggin Franklin and Oxford counties.

Rumford-Mexico Sewerage District equipment, 48 years old, was damaged by rats this summer. Roland Arsenault, District Superintendent, said that several pieces of equipment were shut down due to the damage. Submitted photo

U.S. senators. Susan M. Collins, Angus S. King Jr. and Rhiannon C.Hampson, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, made the announcement via Zoom on Tuesday morning.

This announcement comes on the heels USDA Secretary Tom Vilsacks’s announcement last week of $5.2 billion for critical rural infrastructure improvements in 46 states and Puerto Rico.

Rumford-Mexico Sewerage District receives a loan amounting to $10.77 million and a grant amounting to $8.8million; theMexico Water District receives a loan amounting $2.45million; and AVCOG receives a grant amounting to $77,900.

Melanie Loyzim is the commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. She is also co-chairwoman of Maine Climate Council.

“This project improves pump station capabilities to attack increasing storm flows, and improve overall efficiencies at the treatment facility,” Loyzim said.

Rumford-Mexico Sewerage District will spend the money to finance major upgrades to the main wastewater treatment facility as well as the Dix Avenue pump station.

District Superintendent Roland Arsenault said, “This project is a very real and important investment for economic development and environmental well-being for the towns of Rumford, Mexico and Dixfield.”

He said when he became superintendent in 2018, “The district was plagued with failures in critical infrastructure and equipment.”

He said that the cost of operating and maintaining the district infrastructure, which is most of it dating back to 45 years ago, has become a significant expense for the system’s users.

He stated that equipment failures and system problems are a constant part of his day.

The district hired Wright-Pierce engineering consultants from Topsham in 2019 to review all district assets and to help them understand how to fix plant and cascading system failures.

“Given the age of the wastewater infrastructure, the assessment identified over $28 million in needed upgrades,” Arsenault said. “Unfortunately, the residents and businesses in the local area are not able to fund such a large and necessary upgrade. We cannot emphasize enough how critical this piece of funding is for the total funding package,” he said.

Arsenault stated that the district was also granted $1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act Fund from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

“That leaves us with a total of $8 million in additional funding needed to allow this project to move forward. The district is seeking other funding sources at this time, such as Community Development Block Grant, Northern Border Regional Commission, and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund,” he said.

The Mexico Water District loan is used to pay for improvements in facilities that serve the high-pressure area along the Harlow Hill Road, Backkingdom Road, and several other streets throughout Mexico.

District Superintendent Terry Smith said, “There is a new school coming into the area. We knew we needed to increase capacity.”

Regional School Unit 10 proposes building a school for prekindergarten to grade 8 students on the site of Meroby Elementary in Mexico and Mountain Valley Middle in Mexico. Students from Mexico, Rumford, and other elementary schools would attend the school. The middle school would also be located there.

The Water District will replace the welded steel water storage tanks with a cast in-place concrete reservoir. It will also make improvements to Harlow Hill booster pump station. It will also replace the 100-year-old unlined cast iron water main.

“We’re excited to get this loan,” Smith said. “It’s a long time in the making and without USDA Rural Development, I really don’t know how in the world we’d have ever funded this. But to fund it and get it all done at the same time is a huge plus.”

AVCOG’s grant will provide a wide range of technical assistance to towns and/or groups of towns operating together in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

“The goal of the tri-county region program is to reduce the amount of toxicity of waste being disposed and improve the sustainability of the local and regional solid waste systems,” Executive Director Amy Landry said.

AVCOG will work with communities in order to improve efficiencies, lower costs where possible, protect public health and the environment, increase compliance and institutional capacity, and ensure adequate facilities now and in the future, she said.

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