A sewer project along the Greenbelt Walkway will restrict access to the popular trail for most of the summer, with deadline for completion still up in the air. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

SOUTH PORTLAND — A sewer project along the Greenbelt Walkway is expected to restrict access to part of the popular trail for most of the summer — if not longer.

The $1.5 million Greenbelt Trunkline Sewer Replacement initiative, which began Monday, June 17, will reduce the size and frequency of combined sewer overflow and is a requirement of the city’s stormwater permit.

Signs near the Greenbelt Walkway indicate the project will be completed by July 31, but a letter sent to area residents on May 29 indicated the work would extend through August. According to Water Resource Protection Director Patrick Cloutier, the timeline of completion is still up in the air. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

The project involves replacing the sewer trunkline from the intersection of Mussey Street, down 3rd Street and onto the Greenbelt 800 feet toward Broadway.

There is conflicting information about when the project will be done.

Signs on the trail indicate it will be completed by July 31, but a letter sent to residents May 29 indicated the work would extend through August. City Water Resource Protection Director Patrick Cloutier said June 18 that the schedule is tentative.

Resident Construction Inspector Mike Kane of Sebago Technics, who works for the city, said the work schedule depends on how much weather interferes over the summer. The contract dates, he said, allow for construction into October, but he hopes the project will be finished by the end of August.

On Monday, several pedestrians and bicyclists attempting to access the pathway eastbound at Cottage Road were greeted by a barrier and sign directing them to Broadway. South Portland resident Jim Duffey, who was hoping to ride the trail to Bug Light with his daughter, walked the Broadway detour instead of biking through heavy traffic.

“We got to the point where we couldn’t go any further, so we’re walking down until we find where the path starts again,” he said. “They could have put up more signs in public areas rather than just cut off the path. It’s too bad they have to do it in the summer, too.”

The contractor’s working hours will typically be 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, with limited exceptions. During that time, residents will be asked to use the sidewalk on Broadway instead of the trail between Cottage Road and Mussey Street along the Mill Cove shoreline.

City Civil/Transportation Engineer Justin Grove said combined sewer systems are designed to collect rainwater runoff, sanitary sewage and wastewater in the same pipe. While the system typically transports all wastewater to the water treatment plant, heavy rainfall or snowmelt can cause overflow that discharges into the Fore River and Casco Bay.

South Portland resident Jim Duffey, pictured here with his daughter, was hoping to ride the trail to Bug Light, but had to walk the Broadway detour instead of biking through heavy traffic. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

This overflow, Grove said, is mainly stormwater, but there is still some sewage in the mix. Combined systems were built prior to the implementation of the Clean Water Act of 1972, so the concrete pipe deteriorated at a faster rate and will be replaced with a plastic one to ensure longevity.

“It’s inconvenient to folks using the Greenbelt Trail and to people who will have this project going on in their backyard,” Grove said. “The reason we’re doing it is for the improvement of the water quality, even though it shuts down parts of the trail during a time of year it’s heavily used. We don’t take this decision lightly, but it’s a necessary project.”

According to Kane, the 24-inch pipe installed in the 1970s is too small in diameter to handle the amount flowing through at peak times. He said the pipe, which was originally intended to serve a smaller population, can no longer keep up with the demand and volume, which was a driving factor in the decision to replace it with a 36-inch pipe.

The project was first discussed and earmarked for construction in a facilities plan in 2011. The project was put out to bid in May after preliminary design completion in 2018. Grove said the city received a single bid from Grondin Corp. of Windham, which was awarded the project.

Cloutier said almost $1.2 million of the project is funded through the sewer user fund in the capital improvements budget, while the rest of the cost is covered by tax increment financing funds.

Residents will be asked to take a detour using the sidewalk on Broadway until the sewer project is complete. Contributed

The project is part of a larger ongoing series of work being done to address combined sewage overflows in the city.

In 1986, South Portland had 28 CSO locations and discharged more than 500 million gallons of water into the Fore River and Casco Bay every year.

As of 2018, there were only four CSO locations that discharge a combined 3.5 million gallons a year.

In 33 years the city has spent more than $45 million addressing the issue.

Krysteana Scribner can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9094. Follow her on Twitter: @krysteana2016.


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