Construction of the sewage system will disrupt traffic and utilities along Portland’s Baxter Boulevard

Bob Flagg and Geeta Ramani walk along Baxter Boulevard and the pipes that line it on Sunday. The pipes will be used for an upgrade of the sewage system designed to prevent untreated sewage and storm water from flowing into Casco Bay. “It’s a good thing they are doing, separate the sewage from the sewage,” Flagg said. Carl D. Walsh / Personal Photographer

Portland officials will close Baxter Boulevard between Vannah Avenue and Payson Park starting Thursday as part of a project to prevent sewage overflows from Back Cove.

The Back Cove Trail will remain open as work continues over the next three months, city officials said in a press release on Thursday. Workers have already installed a fence along Baxter Boulevard between the trail and the road, keeping trail users away from construction.

The work is part of a larger, ongoing project to prevent stormwater and untreated sewage from flowing into the ocean, which can occur during heavy rains.

A 3.5 million gallon set of four storage tanks has already been dug in a field at the south end of the creek. Now, municipal contractors are building a conduit along Baxter – the Back Cove West Storage Conduit – to connect the storage facility to a pumping station just south of Payson Park.

Residents polled on Sunday said they had recently received a notice that the blasting was due to start this week, and not all were looking forward to it.

Rosie DeQuattro from Cape Elizabeth reads a notice on sewage system improvements in the Baxter Boulevard neighborhood while walking with her daughter Elly Berke from Somerville, Mass. Improved sewage will cause disruption along the busy thoroughfare. Carl D. Walsh / Personal Photographer

“Oh, it’s a nightmare,” said Holly Lord. “I’m just thinking about what it’s gonna be in the next few months.”

Lord was staining teak furniture outside his daughter’s house on Vannah Avenue; Lord lives nearby. She said work already underway has caused closures and delays on torn Ocean Avenue, as well as traffic safeguards on Forest Avenue.

Lord often hikes the Back Cove Trail with a friend, but over the past few months construction has forced them to meet in weird corners of the cove to find parking, she said.

But, she added, “It’s nobody’s fault. It has to be done sooner or later. “

Trail users and nearby residents should expect noise, vibrations from construction equipment, traffic disruptions, temporary disruptions to walkways and domestic water and sewer lines, and dust raised by the work, according to the city’s website. Contractors will install temporary water pipes crossing the courtyards to connect to homes disrupted by the project, and residents will receive advance notice, according to the city.

Sargent Corporation of Old Town is constructing the $ 27.2 million, 2.25 million gallon storage conduit, which will span 1,700 feet of precast concrete 8 feet by 20 feet, as well as 2,133 feet of pipe 60 inch sewer. Along the way, Sargent will replace local sewers and storm drains, and build new bypass structures, which help direct the flow of water.

Construction in the Back Cove West area will likely continue until 2022, according to the city, with the final repaving of streets until 2023.

Portland operates a combined sewage system, which brings together wastewater from homes and businesses with runoff from parking lots, roofs and storm sewers, treating the combined water from the wastewater treatment plant of East End.

However, in the event of heavy rains or snowmelt, the extra volume can overwhelm these systems. For this reason, combination systems are designed to occasionally overflow into nearby water bodies – a phenomenon known as combined sewer overflow, or CSO.

The US Environmental Protection Agency identifies CSOs as “a major water pollution problem” for the approximately 772 US cities with these systems.

The final stage of the current Portland project will group the city’s eight CSOs – that is, the eight points where overflows can drain out of the system – into two.

Cities in the Boston area are also grappling with CSO contamination of the Charles River and nearby waterways. In recent decades, authorities have closed some overflow points and installed treatment and monitoring systems in others. As of December 2015, CSOs had been eliminated from 34 of 84 outlets that once dumped untreated water into the Charles and Mystic Rivers, as well as Boston Harbor, according to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.


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