Aging infrastructure: we’re all in the same boat

Maine winters take brutal toll on water mains

Brutal Maine winters take their toll on water systems, causing water main breaks like this one in Portland last July. Photo by Gabe Souza, Portland Press Herald.

The Portland Water District is not part of Maine Water, but its service area is just to the northeast of communities we serve, Biddeford, Saco Old Orchard and Scarborough. The Portland Press Herald published a story today about the Portland Water District’s intent to raise water rates so that it can replace aging pipes. It’s also going to launch an advertising campaign to educate customers about how they get clean drinking water.

Like other water systems throughout the Northeast, many of the Portland Water District’s pipes are over 100 years old, and are failing due to the effects of more than 100 brutal Maine winters. Last year Portland experienced a catastrophic failure when a water main broke and spewed 20,000 gallons of water per minute for 20 minutes. They’ve had 94 water main breaks this year, an increase over the 80 they has last year.

Reporter Randy Billings wrote that “the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2013 Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment estimates that a $384 billion investment will be needed nationwide over the next 20 years to maintain clean and safe public drinking water. In Maine, that investment is expected to be nearly $1.8 billion, according to the EPA.”

Aging infrastructure is something Maine Water certainly understands, because we deal with it on a daily basis in all the Maine communities we serve. We wish the Portland Water District the best as it tackles this complex and vexing challenge.

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