July 27, 2022 – Today Maine Water Company celebrated the commissioning of its new $60 million Saco River Drinking Water Resource Center, which began operation in June, providing up to 12 million gallons of high-quality drinking water a day to the Saco Bay communities.
Governor Janet Mills attended the celebration noting, “Today, we mark another milestone in Maines’ clean air and clean water legacy – a new water treatment center for the towns of Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Pine Point. It is more resilient to the impacts of climate change and it will contribute to our state’s goal of carbon neutrality by generating 100% of its power needs through a solar array. It will cut costs for taxpayers and created 115 construction jobs through 2022. It also preserves more than 250 acres of land for public access. My administration is proud to support projects like these that preserve Maine’s clean air and clean water.”
Governor Mills, Mayor William Doyle of Saco, Mayor Alan Casavant of Biddeford, the Town Manager of Scarborough, Thomas Hall, as well as many other elected officials and community leaders were able to talk with a number of Maine Water’s passionate water professionals who live and work in the Biddeford Saco community.
The center replaces the original Biddeford Water Treatment Plant, first constructed in 1884 when Chester Arthur was president, and before Biddeford had access to electricity. It was located entirely in the 100-year flood plain of the Saco River making it vulnerable to service interruptions from catastrophic flooding. The original plant served the community for 138 years, and the Saco River Drinking Water Resource Center is designed to provide another century of reliable service.
“Through our 2019 affiliation with SJW Group, Maine Water was able to access the capital funds needed to create this state-of-the-art center, which will provide our communities with high-quality, reliable water service for generations,” said Maine Water President Mark Vannoy. “This project has been years in the making and our combination of local expertise with national size and strength comes together to benefit the communities of Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Pine Point.”
“As we look across this continent and world today, we see the impact of climate change on the availability of clean water. Such environmental tragedy must be a wakeup call to those of us who live along the Saco River. It must remind us that our source of water is precious,” said Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant. “Today, Maine Water works in collaboration with the Saco River Corridor Commission to ensure that we, and future generations, have access to clean water. For millions of people in today’s world, clean drinking water is not guaranteed. Let us celebrate this ongoing investment and our collective commitment to our towns and cities, present and future, nurturing a better place in which to live and work.”
Maine Water is committed to preserving the environment while delivering high-quality drinking water to Maine residents. The Resource Center utilizes new technology and treatment systems to increase efficiency with lower costs and fewer resources needed, in comparison to the old plant.
In addition, Maine Water has protected 250 acres of land as open space in perpetuity with future plans for public access. The company has landscaped the property with 100% native plants including a 10,000 square-foot pollinator garden and conducted wetland restoration and revegetation of previously impervious land. One hundred percent of the electricity needs will be generated by an on-site solar array in the beginning of 2023.
Maine Water’s commitment to sustainability from design through operation was recognized by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure who awarded the project an Envision Silver Award, the first for a project of its kind in New England.
“The new Saco River Drinking Water Resource Center is a key infrastructure asset for the Biddeford-Saco community,” said Melissa Peneycad, Managing Director of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. “Maine Water and its project partners deserve to be commended for their conscious design efforts to respond to near and long-term community needs, while rehabilitating environmental functions and the reliance of the facility as the main drinking water facility for the Biddeford-Saco region. This Envision Silver award is a testament to Maine Water’s leadership and commitment to sustainability.”
Always conscious of the impact on customers, Maine Water developed a first of its kind approach to gradually increase rates to cover the investment, rather than the traditional impact of one large step increase. The Maine Public Utilities Commission supported that approach and as a result, one gallon of clean, fresh drinking water from the new Center is still about a penny per gallon.
“The Saco River Drinking Water Resource Center will help us to deliver on our mission to thousands of residents of Maine as we deliver life-sustaining, high-quality water and exceptional service while protecting the environment and enhancing our communities,” said Eric Thornburg, Chair, President and CEO of SJW Group.
The Saco River Drinking Water Resource Center began operation in June 2022 and serves about 40,000 people in Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Pine Point. It is the second largest public water system in Maine.