Huge Project to Prevent Sewage Overflow into Portland's Back Cove

Tue September 08, 2020 - Northeast Edition
News Center Maine

The massive building under way by the Preble Street Extension and soccer fields is dubbed the Back Cove South Storage Facility. (Portlandmaine.gov image)
The massive building under way by the Preble Street Extension and soccer fields is dubbed the Back Cove South Storage Facility. (Portlandmaine.gov image)



Portland, Maine's Back Cove is a popular place to run, walk, bike, or lately, to check out the construction project there.

The massive building under way by the Preble Street Extension and soccer fields is dubbed the Back Cove South Storage Facility.

It's a $40 million enterprise designed to help eliminate combined sewage overflow into Back Cove and Portland Harbor.

"In this area there are just sewer pipes so when we get heavy rain the storm water mixes with the sewage. And when it does that in a heavy rain event, it has no place to go," said Chris Branch, director of Portland's Department of Public Works.

He added that all that tainted water eventually discharges into the ocean.

"It pollutes the water," Branch explained, "with E. coli, suspended solids and heavy metals."

To help prevent that from happening, the city is installing a massive 3.5-million-gallon underground tank at the facility that will be able to store the worst of that runoff.

"This project will eliminate 40 percent of all the combined sewage overflows that is discharged in the city of Portland and goes into one of our waterways," he said. "And that is, incredibly, 25 percent of the entire state's discharge. This is a huge project for the environment and a positive one for people who utilize Back Cove."

The fill or extra dirt from the project will be used to build up the elevation of the area.

"By doing that we'll get less tidal impact during high tides and it will make the playing fields and trails more accessible," Branch added.

Once the Back Cove South Storage Facility project is complete, which is expected to be in 2022, the nearby soccer fields will be rebuilt, and the park's large recreational equipment will be returned.

In the meantime, the Back Cove Trail is open and will continue to be throughout construction.