San Jose Water Group President and CEO Eric Thornburg, Maine Water CEO and Connecticut Water President Maureen Westbrook, Maine Water President Mark Vannoy and Maine Gov.  Janet Mills toast – with blueberry or lemon flavored water – the official opening of the Saco River Drinking Water Resource Center in Biddeford on Wednesday July 27. The $60 million plant provides up to 12 million gallons of water daily to 40,000 area  customers. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — When Gov. Janet Mills stepped up to the podium to help celebrate the opening of the Saco River Drinking Water Resource Center on Wednesday, July 27, she expressed gratitude for all the work that had gone into the new, $60 million facility that serves 40,000 Maine Water customers in Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, and the Pine Point section of Scarborough.

“This would make Ed Muskie proud,” said Mills, invoking the name of the former U.S. senator from Maine who championed the 1972 Clean Water Act.

Maine Water President Mark Vannoy and Maine Gov. Janet Mills listen as biologist Mary Jane Dillingham, manager of water quality for the Saco River Drinking Water Resource Center, explains testing done in the lab. Mills was among those touring the faciity at the official opening on Wednesday, July 27. Tammy Wells Photo

The new, state of the art facility, almost directly across South Street from the original 1884 Biddeford & Saco Water Company plant, went online in June. Soon, said Maine Water President Mark Vannoy, the old plant, located in the flood plain of the Saco River, will be decommissioned. That action will mark the closing chapter of a facility that served the district for 138 years — including through floods in 1936, 1953 and 1987.

“When Maine Water purchased Biddeford & Saco Water company in 2012, it was very clear that the plant needed to be replaced,” said Vannoy.

It took time and a lot of work — and investment, made possible because Maine Water is part of San Jose Water Group, a firm that operates in several states, said Vannoy.

“The Saco River Drinking Water Resource Center will help us to deliver on our mission to thousands of residents of Maine as we deliver life-sustaining, high-quality water and exceptional service while protecting the environment and enhancing our communities,” said Eric Thornburg, chair, president, and CEO of SJW Group.


The new plant has the capacity to provide up to 12 million gallons of water a day — and even though Maine Water implemented a rate increase a year ago, a gallon of water costs just about a penny per gallon, said Vannoy.

New technology and treatment systems increase efficiency, lower costs, and use fewer resources than the old plant, he said.

Starting in 2023, 100 percent of the new facility’s energy needs will be met by an onsite solar array.

Vannoy said the company is committed to the environment and pointed out that the property is landscaped with native plants, including a 10,000-square-foot pollinator garden. About 250 acres is protected as open space, with future plans for public access.

A reception to mark the opening took place in the Kirby Littlefield Training Room, named for the long-term employee who worked for the company for 56 years, keeping the old plant operating.

In all, the Biddeford-Saco division of Maine Water employs 30 people.


“It’s been a thrill to watch this happen,” said Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant, who said he toured the old plant 13 years ago. “I was aghast,” he said. “It was archaic and extremely tired.”

Investment in infrastructure in the public sector does not come easily, the mayor noted.

“This is an outstanding example of what needs to happen nationwide,” said Casavant.

Working with Maine Water has been a pleasure, he added.

“They always did what they said they were going to do,” said Casavant.

“This is an investment not only for today but the future,” said Saco Mayor Bill Doyle, agreeing that more infrastructure projects need to take place.

Noting 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Mills quoted the late Sen. Muskie: “Our planet is beset with a cancer which threatens our very existence, and which will not respond to the kind of treatment that has been prescribed in the past. The cancer of water pollution was engendered by our abuse of our lakes, streams, rivers, and oceans; it has thrived on our half-hearted attempts to control it; and like any other disease, it can kill us.”

The new facility is more resilient to the impacts of climate change, she said.

“My administration is proud to support projects like these that preserve Maine’s clean air and clean water,” said Mills.

Comments are not available on this story.