Wastewater plant manager seeks grants

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PARIS – The town’s wastewater treatment facility is competing for $1 million in economic development money to help update the aging plant and prevent pollution of the Little Androscoggin River.

The money will also help offset any payment increases facing district customers, who have over the past six years grown poorer, according to a recent data survey.

The Paris Utility District is one of 14 facilities vying for five community development block grants, according to Manager Steve Arnold. To help boost its case to receive the public funding, Arnold said the district completed an income survey of sewer users.

Of the 1,217 year-round household customers, 58.5 percent are estimated to have low-to-moderate incomes based on an assessment of 420 households. That number has increased 16.2 percent since 2000 based on U.S. Census and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development figures.

The application is due Jan. 12, and Arnold said the district should hear back in early February.

The wastewater treatment facility is 31 years old, and it must be upgraded to ensure that it does not release toxic discharges.

If the facility receives the funding, $500,000 will go toward work this year, and $500,000 will be used to pay for work next year.

The Paris Utility District has already received an $810,000 grant and a $990,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program.

Although sewer fees increased in December by about $40 a year, customers should see no further increases in their sewer bills.

“There will be no increase in the next two to three years and hopefully longer,” Arnold said.

The upgrade has been divided into three phases: the first phase, to fix the headwork system where wastewater enters the plant, will cost about $2.3 million and begin this spring. The district plans to build a new screening and wash mechanism to remove grit and other debris coming into the treatment facility and update the electrical system and make other repairs to the building to increase safety for the workers.

The second phase, to modernize the treatment process units, will cost about $8 million.

Arnold said he will continue seeking grants and loans to help fund the project.

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