WINDHAM – Town councilors unanimously endorsed a plan Tuesday for developing a sewer system for the commercial area of North Windham and surrounding residential areas.

The proposal calls for a collection system for the town’s waste, which would be transported through a 9- to 10-mile pipe from North Windham to the Portland Water District’s treatment plant in Westbrook.

The project is expected to cost $30 million to $40 million. Councilors supported it by a 7-0 vote.

The vote cleared the way for engineers to do further work and create a preliminary design for the system.

“This is a huge issue and people need to get involved,” Council Chairman William Tracy said after the meeting. “Whether or not we can construct it will be a financial question. I’m not interested in digging any dirt if we don’t have the funds to back it up.”

Several councilors raised concerns during the meeting that no one from the public spoke on the issue.

“At some point . . . people will have an opinion on where we are headed or where we are not headed,” said Councilor Scott Hayman. “Right now, there are eight people in the room. Thank you for being here.”

Councilor John MacKinnon said there was insufficient public input.

“All of a sudden, everyone is going to come out of the woodwork and make their points,” he said.

Town officials shelved the idea of building a sewage system in North Windham in 2003 because the $30 million price was considered too high. Since then, contamination in groundwater has risen significantly.

The trend prompted the council to take action. In March, it hired Woodard & Curran of Portland, which studied potential development of a system in North Windham in 2001 and 2003.

The town’s only public sewage now is in a small section of Little Falls in South Windham. The new system would benefit the town’s northern business district and an industrial park off Route 302.

It would bolster economic growth for the area by providing the infrastructure needed for hotels, restaurants and light manufacturing industries. It also would benefit some neighborhoods, particularly around lakes, and the public school campus in the center of Windham.

“When you set that many businesses on Maine’s second-largest aquifer, you have to look at these things,” Tracy said.

Thomas Bartell, the town’s economic development director, said town officials plan to meet with Westbrook officials to identify a potential route for a pipe to connect the communities.

“If one route works for Westbrook better than another, and it doesn’t harm Windham, that would be all the better for the region,” Bartell said in an interview.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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