Editor’s note: In the process of fact-checking the guest column from Sen. John Nutting, the Sun Journal contacted David Jones at Lewiston Public Works and Norm Lamie, general manager of the Auburn Sewerage District. While they verified the combined sewer overflows discharge figures in millions of gallons contained in the senator’s column, they emphasized that the added volume is due entirely to an increase in rainfall, with 32.5 inches falling in 2004 and 67 inches in 2005.

In a guest column published in the Sun Journal last year, Lamie, Jones and Clayton “Mac” Richardson, superintendent of the Lewiston-Auburn Water Pollution Control Authority, disputed that sewer overflows during periods of high rain are “untreated sewage.” The runoff is a “combination of storm water and wastewater, which is licensed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Discharges from combined sewers result when storm water enters the sewage collection systems, thereby overloading the sewer system’s ability to convey or treat all wastewater.”

In that same column, the writers dispute that CSOs cause the most damage to the river and its ecosystem. “By their nature, combined sewer overflows are relatively dilute, predominantly naturally degradable, and occur at times when the river is best able to assimilate them – during periods of high flows and high dissolved oxygen.”

The cities of Lewiston and Auburn are currently in the midst of a 15-year Department of Environmental Protection-approved plan to upgrade the cities’ sewer systems, having spent more than $15 million on the plan to date. The cities’ CSO master plan 5-year update was prepared and approved by DEP last year, according to Lamie, and the 5-year wastewater discharge license was also approved.

The cities are ahead of schedule in completing their CSO containment work. At this point during the process, the cities had set a goal of being 40 percent complete. The work is now 52 percent complete.

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