An artistic rendering of the proposed new Maine Water facility in Biddeford. SUBMITTED PHOTO

BIDDEFORD — Maine Water Company has begun seeking permits needed for a proposed new facility in Biddeford.

The company announced earlier this week it had filed applications with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for state and federal environmental permits in support of the company’s proposal to build a new water treatment facility across the street from its current facility on South Street.

The Biddeford facility provides water service to 16,000 customers in Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach and the Pine Point area of Scarborough.

Maine Water Company CEO Rick Knowlton said a reliable water utility infrastructure is important for the company’s obligation to continue to deliver high quality drinking water and public fire service protection and to support the growth of local communities.

“The families, businesses and communities we serve depend on us to deliver water every day, and we take that commitment very seriously,” he said.

The current facility, located along the Saco River, dates back to 1884, and though it has served the area well for many years, it needs numerous renovations, according to Knowlton.

“There really hasn’t been a major improvement in the facility in over 80 years,” he said.

An outside engineering study determined it would be cheaper to build a new facility than renovate the existing building and bring it up to current code standards. One of the challenges of renovating the current building is that it would have to be carefully planned in sections so that water service could continue flowing to customers.

Another problem with the current building is that it s along the Saco River in a flood plain.

For these reasons, Maine Water officials have decided that the smarter investment would be to build a new facility across the street and uphill from the current one, and out of the floodplain, said Knowlton.

The company is proposing a 35,000-square-foot facility with a projected cost of about $50 million.

“Our team has worked hard to develop an appropriate design and prepare a site plan that will minimize impacts on wetlands and on the Saco River, which has been the source of drinking water for this public water system since its original construction,” Knowlton said.

The company will also have to get permits from the city of Biddeford and the Saco River Corridor Commission. Maine Water officials hope to begin the project next year, and construction is expected to take two years.

Connecticut Water Service, the parent company of Maine Water, is moving forward with a merger with SWJ Group. The SWJ Group has committed to continued capital investments of more than $200 million in the water systems across the combined operations, with some of this funding specifically earmarked for the Biddeford project, said Knowlton.

Some of the funding will also come from customers and the company will be asking the Public Utility Commission to approve a rate change.

Knowlton said, if approved, customers would see a “measurable increase” in rates a year or so from now, when construction is planned to start.

The current minimum bill for customers of the Biddeford facility is $36.89 every three months, which includes 25 gallons of water use per day. The average residential use is a little more than 100 gallons, which would incur a $59.58 bill every three months.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be reached at 780-9015 or by email at [email protected]

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