South Portland’s Willard Beach between Willow Street and Myrtle Avenue will be closed to the public for four weeks while a new sewer force main is installed. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

Construction on a plastic sewer force main at Willard Beach in South Portland that can last for up to 75  years began Monday, and sections of the beach, including the main entrance, will be closed to the public for up to four weeks.

Emergency repairs were conducted two years ago and then again in June, when the force main ruptured. Since then, all signs have pointed to the need for a replacement, according to Brad Weeks, the city’s water resource protection director.

“We’ve been evaluating what our alternatives are,” Weeks told The Forecaster. “‘Do we line the force main? Do we go a different direction with the force main, like up through a neighborhood?’ … We came to a very easy conclusion that replacing the force main on the beach with polyethylene pipe was the most viable option.”

The City Council approved the use of roughly $560,000 from the city’s pump station reserve fund for the project in early October. The city’s Water Resource Protection Department plans to transfer $290,000 allocated for sludge disposal that is no longer needed, back into the pump station fund.

There are multiple causes for the damage to the sewer force main over the years, Weeks said.

“It’s 45 years old and there’s been degradation on the inside of the pipe, as well as the exterior,” he said. “The interior of that is just wear and tear over time.”


Degradation of the exterior, he said, can be attributed to salt water as the ocean tide rolls in and to peat soil beneath the main, both of which spurred corrosion.

“That’s why we’re not going with a metal pipe this time,” Weeks said.

The plastic installation is expected to last 75 years.

The project will impact some sand dunes at the beach, including some that are part of a pilot program launched in March that uses recycled Christmas trees to help trap blowing sand. The city plans to reshape the dunes after construction and plant beach grass.

The beach between Willow Street and Myrtle Avenue will be closed to the public during construction, along with the beach entrances on those roads. Beach entrances on Beach and Willard streets will remain open.

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