Rockland’s Wastewater Department will receive a $10 million infrastructure investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for work on the wastewater facility and the city’s sewer infrastructure.

The USDA’s Rural Development Office announced the investment as part of a $1.2 billion program to modernize wastewater infrastructure in rural communities across 46 states. Rockland is one of three municipalities in Maine to share more than $46.1 million in funding, along with Bridgton and Southwest Harbor.

The funds include an $8,028,000 loan and a $1,972,000 grant to Rockland, according to a joint press release by Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins.

A statement by the USDA explains there is a need for “immediate upgrades” to Rockland’s wastewater system. “Some of the plant’s original equipment and processes are upwards of forty years old, and the overall facility is well beyond the twenty-year useful life for which it was originally designed,” according to the USDA.

The funds will also address issues with the sewer collection infrastructure and combined sewer overflow abatement, the USDA stated, noting that the city’s system serves 2,943 users. The upgrades are identified as the highest priorities in the city’s Strategic Plan and Combined Sewer Overflow Master Plan.

Rockland residents passed a $10.4 million bond referendum for sewer system improvements in 2016 and the grant application was submitted approximately a year ago, according to Rockland Wastewater Director Terry Pinto, who said the grant was awarded two months ago but the federal government is just now making the announcement.

“The money is there,” Pinto said, explaining the upgrade projects will be contracted through two separate bid applications. The first, for work on the sewer collection system, will take place in the spring, while bids for upgrades to the wastewater facility will be solicited in the fall of 2019. The longer interval required for the facility project is due to the complexity of upgrading the old systems with new technology, he explained.

Another project to upgrade the sewers on Main Street will go out to bid in the next few weeks, Pinto said, noting that the work will include placing 30-inch piping approximately 15 feet below the ground and is expected to cause traffic detours from the junction of Pleasant Street to the area where the railway meets Main Street.

Pinto said that while the Rural Development Office has awarded money to the city in the past, the $1.9 million grant is the largest his department has received. “We’re quite pleased,” he said.