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Updated: July 6, 2023

Decades overdue, innovative $40M Windham wastewater project breaks ground

charts with outlines Courtesy / Town of Windham Seen here is an area to be served by the new plant

Decades in the making, a $40.6 million state-of-the-art membrane bio-reactor wastewater treatment facility recently broke ground in Windham as the first project with an innovative technology, called drip dispersal, of its scale in Maine.

The facility comes at a time when economic growth in Windham has been stalled due to the lack of a community wastewater disposal system, according to a news release. 

Studies have also found an increase in pollution in the groundwater, threatening the quality of well water and the environment.

“This new North Windham sewer system is 40 years overdue and will solve longstanding environmental and economic challenges for Windham,” said Town Councilor Jarrod Maxfield.

The advanced system is expected to provide for a cleaner environment and be a model for other Maine communities. 

big machinery
Courtesy / Town of Windham
Membrane bio-reactor technology of the type to be used in the Winham project.

“This system will support business growth, new job opportunities and affordable housing options,” Maxfield continued. 

The project will allow for the future retirement of an aging treatment facility serving the schools.

The town partnered with the Portland Water District to solve the multi-level wastewater problem with a solution that’s expected to greatly benefit the environment and spur economic growth. 

The membrane bio-reactor system was selected for reliability, flexibility and cost effectiveness. The facility was designed to clean and filter community wastewater that is currently being discharged untreated into septic systems. The cleaned, high-quality water, which is extremely low in nitrogen and phosphorus, will be released into an advanced drip dispersal system laid 2 feet underneath the town’s new athletic fields. The sandy soils native to the area are considered ideal for the system.

Funding for the project included:

  • Town Tax Increment Funding funding — $15 million
  • Clean Water State Revolving Loan funding financed over 30 years at 1.5%, plus 
  • $2.25 million in principal forgiveness — $36.7 million
  • American Rescue Plan funds— $ 1.7  million
  • Congressional direct spending sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King — $2 million
  • Cumberland County Government — $ 1.5 million
    chart with colorful ovals
    Courtesy / Town of Windham
    Site plan.

Benefits of the project include:

  • Decommission over 100 septic systems, directly improving the quality of the water discharged into the groundwater from the treatment facility by 99%
  • Eliminate 22,000 pounds per year of nitrogen and 3,000 pounds per year of phosphorus from entering the North Windham groundwater
  • Allow existing businesses to expand their footprint, new businesses to develop and the school campus to upgrade and expand
  • Improve the quality of water in North Windham groundwater and waterways
  • Support the development of multipurpose recreational fields at the Manchester Elementary School

Benefits of membrane bio-reactor system treatment include:

  • Smaller carbon footprint than standard treatment facilities
  • Most advanced micro-filtration system in the state for handling contaminants including PFAS
  •  Built-in redundancy to ensure reliability of service
  • Provides an odorless solution
  • Allows for further growth and expansion

Since 1971, several studies have been conducted identifying a need for improved wastewater disposal in North Windham. However, the community declined previous solutions. 

The community approved the $40.6 million project in 2022.

“The new MBR treatment facility will have profound positive impacts on the community,” said Portland Water District General Manager Seth Garrison.


The town also received a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s RAISE grant program for transportation multi-modal improvements.

“This funding will help create a business-friendly, village-like atmosphere in North Windham; this will then allow MaineDOT to continue working with the Town of Windham to prioritize the needs of regional travelers on Route 302,” said Bruce Van Note, commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation. 

He continued, “Route 302 was never designed to serve as both a local street dotted with businesses and a through-route for travelers heading to Sebago Lake and other western destinations. Traffic has increased in recent years while transportation efficiency and safety have suffered.”

The grant money will improve safety and efficiency on the roads while providing walkable back streets and a new multi-use pathway for pedestrians, bicyclists and other active transportation users. 

The town partnered with the Maine Department of Transportation to address local access, regional mobility, safety improvements (like raised medians), smart signals, pathways, sidewalks, ADA improvements and lighting to help transform the Route 302 corridor.

The $25 million federal grant is based on a funding combination that comprises 80% in federal money, 10% state and 10% town.

The town of Windham approved its share of the funding in 2022.

North Windham’s Route 302 corridor is the gateway and service center for the Lakes Region. North Windham’s downtown area has the convergence of Route 302, Route 35 and Route 115 — key arteries to the Lakes Region. It is a bustling commercial district along the east shore of Sebago Lake, catering to tourists and surrounding small communities. 

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