Technology is there, but money is the issue

Heating Camden’s new middle school from town’s sewer plant: What’s the cost and can it be done?

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 5:00am

    CAMDEN — The Camden-Rockport school Building Committee will investigate using heat from the Camden wastewater treatment system to heat the new Camden-Rockport Middle School. The technology, according to the school’s Maintenance Director Keith Rose, it is a fairly common in China and Europe, and would involve installing a heat exchanger in the plant’s aeration tank.

    It’s an “interesting concept,” said the new school architects, as they met for the first time with the Building Committee on Aug. 15 in the existing middle school library. 

    The committee, likewise, was curious about the process, and agreed it wanted more information about the cost and technology when members meet again September 13.

    But the heat exchange and piping for this renewable heating system is not in the budget of the $26 million project. 

    The new school blueprints are now being finalized by Biddeford-based Oak Point Associates, which School Administrative District 28 has hired to complete the project. Oak Point architects Tyler Barter and Rob Tilotson were at the Aug. 15 meeting, and they said the proposed heating system for the 83,400-square-foot is to be conventional oil and gas, with radiant floor heating.

    The new library and offices are to be air conditioned; not so, however, the classrooms and other parts of the building.

    At the meeting, there was mention of approaching Efficiency Maine, the quasi-state organization that promotes energy savings and alternative systems, for grants.

    Anne Stephenson, who is senior manager for Public Information and Outreach at Efficiency Maine, said Aug. 23 that such a project could fall under one of the organization’s programs. Efficiency Maine has partnered with businesses, municipalities, colleges, etc., on large scale projects, such as replacing vacuum pumps at Texas Instrument or working with Wyman Blueberries on freezers.

    “Although we do not have examples of similar projects that Efficiency Maine has funded, innovative projects like this are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Custom Program to determine whether they meet the program cost-effectiveness criteria,” she said.

    Sewer heat recovery is used in some cities and can incorporate using a central boiler that delivers steam through a system of pipes. In one Vancouver neighborhood, the heat pumps pull heat from the sewage system and send it as warm water through other buildings.

    With the new Camden-Rockport Middle School, initial conversations have included dropping a heat exchanger into the wastewater aeration tanks at the municipal sewer plant, which is adjacent to the middle school property and borders the Megunticook River.

    The heat from the sewage warms water enclosed in pipes, which is then sent to the school and circulated through the heating system.  

    “The technology has been around 30 to 50 years,” said Rose.

    According to the architects and Rose, the school’s mechanical system does not differ greatly as to whether the fuel is gas, oil or geothermal; the piping is the same. The cost comes in the heat delivery system at the wastewater treatment plant.

    Rose said he would meet with engineers and then meet with the town to discuss the idea, and return Sept. 13 with more information.

    “We hopefully have a good idea, but where it will land is unknown,” he said. “It is not in the budget so we would need creative ways to fund it, from a grant or someone in the community.”


    Camden Riverwalk

    At the Aug. 15 meeting, Geoff Scott, chairman of the Camden-Rockport Pathways Committee, spoke briefly with the middle school Building Committee about the route of the proposed pedestrian and bicycle Riverwalk, a section of which would cross the school property near the Megunticook River.

    Portions of the walk have already been constructed along Shirt Tail Point and the Tannery Park, alongside the Megunticook River. In total, the Riverwalk represents a two-mile pathway from the lower end of Megunticook Lake to the Camden Harbor.

    The portion designated to route near the middle school and sewer treatment plant property is in the planning stages, and Scott suggested collaborating with the school district’s contractors as they begin the earthworks for building new sports fields for the school.

    “I’m here to say, let’s keep moving on this,” he said. “It would be a shame if the big equipment is here and we don’t use it.”

    He said the Riverwalk is not only strategic for children to safely get to and from school but it will also provide a path for students to easily access riparian habitat for research.

    The Building Committee said that new school project would be put out to bid in Spring 2018, with the fields constructed by the end of Summer 2018.

    “That timing would be good,” said Scott.

    Building Committee Chairman Will Gartley said more information for the topography maps would be necessary.

    “It would be shortsighted not to acknowledge that the path will be down there,” he said. 

    It will be up to the Pathways Committee, however, to negotiate with the contractor and come up with the funding, the school Building Committee concluded.


    Building Committee meetings

    The Building Committee will meet monthly, on the first Monday, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. (except for the September meeting).

    The committee hopes to stream its meetings, and will update the Middle Matters website that was used to disseminate information in the lead-up to the June Town Meeting bond vote in June 2017.

    SAD 28 in contracting with Oak Pointe Architects at a 6.8 percent fee for the entire $26 million project, or whatever the final number is.



    The Building Committee consists of:

    Marcia Dietrich, Rockport resident, school board member, liaison to board

    Anastasia Fisher, Rockport resident

    John Lewis, Camden resident and Knowlton Street homeowner

    Emily LeBlanc-McConnell, Camden resident

    Elizabeth Noble, Camden resident and school board member

    Marc Ratner, Camden resident and Camden Select Board member

    Joe Russillo, Camden resident, architect

    John Scholz, Camden resident, architect 

    George Abendroth, Rockport resident and engineer

    Will Gartley, Rockport resident and engineer

    Owen Casas, Rockport Select Board liaison