SEABROOK — Congressman Chris Pappas visited the wastewater treatment facility Tuesday afternoon to discuss funding from the Department of Environmental Services and improvements being made in town and across the state.
Pappas, a Democrat representing New Hampshire's 1st District, sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that oversees the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. During the tour, he noted there is a revolving fund of federal money for the state to improve infrastructure such as the treatment facility in Seabrook.
"There's a lot of talk in Washington about the Infrastructure Committee," Pappas said. "It's important to get a local understanding of the infrastructure and the systems that already exist and how we might make improvements over time to the local communities."
Wastewater Superintendent Philippe Maltais and secretary Jamie McDonald gave Pappas a tutorial of the newly implemented geographic information system, which collects data about wells, sewers and pipelines, among other infrastructure in town.
Prior to using the online system, wastewater officials would use paper maps to locate these and respond to calls, McDonald said.
All wastewater officials are able to respond to calls and identify problems electronically. Maltais noted that the GIS includes all water and sewer system data. Wastewater employees can send information while in the field by using tablet computers.
"It's a working system for us," said Maltais, who added that the Water Department will use the system for repairs. "It's become an excellent tracking system to have for when calls get completed, who's doing them."
Treatment facility Chief Operator Nils Larson said the Blackwater River bridge project is one of the biggest problems in town right now. There are two pipes that run under the bridge, located at the end of Route 286 near Brown's Lobster Pound. One pipe has considerable corrosion and needs to be replaced.
"It's a big project and not a lot of people will take it on," Larson said. "The grounds are rocky. The tide comes right up to the base of the bridge and that's our problem with getting it out to bid is you have little short windows of time before the tide comes back up. It's going to be a real logistic challenge, but it's going to have to get done."
The town received funding through a warrant article approved in 2018, said Maltais, adding that the project has been put out to bid. He hopes work will begin by the end of the year. A warrant article approved last week provides $60,000 for "asset management" at the treatment facility, Maltais said.
"New Hampshire has a lot of aging infrastructure in these types of facilities," Maltais said. "There hasn't been too many new ones lately, but the older cities are seeing requirements for new rehab and additional funding to replace some infrastructure."
During his visit to the facility, Pappas said every community is a little different in terms of its infrastructure. He said the state revolving fund for addressing infrastructure needs is essential in providing funding so communities can take on certain projects.
"Seabrook is a place where they were able to finance the construction of a new (sewage treatment) system back in the 1990s and so it's at a different point in its lifespan," Pappas said. "Rural communities, in particular, I think, struggle to raise the capital they need to expand and construct these larger systems."
Staff writer Amanda Getchell covers Newburyport and Seabrook. Follow her on Twitter @ajgetch.