NORWAY – The town has received $1.1 million in federal stimulus money to replace miles of century-old sewer pipes.

The announcement of the $1,105,000 grant and a $385,000 loan to improve sewer system efficiency was made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday afternoon.

Asked how the town got such a large award, Sewer Superintendent Shawn Brown said, “You’ve got me. I don’t know. I guess we’re just lucky.”

While the town has received grants for wastewater system improvements before, this is the first one for more than $1 million, he said.

The money will be used to replace 1913 clay sewer pipes with PVC pipe in at least a dozen streets, according to Brown. The $385,000 is the match the town will have to pay, he said.

The project, which is anticipated to begin this summer and last for two years, will address streets such as Fair, Winter, Green, Paris, Whitman, Crescent, Cummings Place, Maple, Pleasant and Summer. Brown said he anticipates the work will begin by replacing pipes on Whitman, Crescent, Cummings Place, Pine, Fern and Hazen streets.

“This will be a huge project,” he said.

Town Manager David Holt told selectmen Thursday night that the largest part of the project will probably be Fair Street where workers will have to dig at least 15 feet deep to replace the pipes. It will require a temporary shutdown of Fair Street and will not happen until 2011, he said.

Although the town has attempted to replace the clay pipes since early in 2000, budget restraints have kept the work to a minimum, Brown said. The only other sewer line replacement project was on Main Street in 1964, he added.

Holt said the project will cut down on the storm water that goes into the sewer and will help the wastewater lagoons last longer, stop tree roots from affecting the lines and help stop sewer backups.

Ron Lambert, community program director for Maine Rural Development, said Thursday that approximately $4 billion has been committed nationwide for water quality and public sanitation projects over two years in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The program ends in September.

Lambert said the state agency submits projects for funding about every three weeks.

“We work up our projects in the state. We score them. We submit them to the national office to be processed. Everything that has been submitted has been processed. That’s the good news for Maine,” he said of the $26 million that has been allocated in the past year for Maine projects.

Lambert said that Norway’s high score was based in part on the small population and corresponding low income of residents and the need for the project.

Last month, town officials announced that Norway had been awarded $85,000 for two SolarBee units that will dramatically cut the town sewer plant’s electrical use in half. The devices will be added to the one installed two years ago in the Brown Street facility

Norway was the first town in the state to use the technology, Holt said. Brown discovered it and brought it to the attention of town officials.

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