Back Cove Overflow Quagmire Delayed by Bad Soil Adding to Increased Costs for Taxpayers


A Sign at the Entrance to the Back Cove CSp {roject.

A Sign Marking the Trail That is Located Next to the Back Cove CSO Project..

Do you drive by the Back Cove Overflow Project and wonder what the heck is gong on down there?  Why is it taking so long to complete?  Why does it seem that no progress is being made?  You are not alone in that curiousity.  Here’s the scoop told to this blogger by someone with first hand knowledge of the quagmire.

The Back Cove project is very complicated emphasized this source.  The complication surrounds the soil conditions found in the Combined Sewer Overflow ( CSO) quagmire there.  The soil is “minimized” because it was fill from years ago – back when Portland was a major shipping hub.  When soil conditions are bad, constructionability is more difficult and now Portland is paying “the price for that to build the CSO project,” she said.

To date, the CSO project is at least two times the original cost.  A bid of about $35 million about five years ago was accepted by the city. Now the cost for the quagmire is around $70 million according to the source.  Jon Jennings was then city manager during that bid process and would have been in charge of the administration of the CSO project.  (Jennings, 61, a conservative Democrat, served as Portland’s city manager from 2015 to 2021.  The thin-skinned and at times vulgar city manager left Portland to take a similar position in Clearwater, Florida.  Jennings, who had worked in the Clinton White House, lasted briefly in the Florida position before he was fired earlier this year. He famously ran into a public brick wall with the progressive wing of the Democratic party,  specifically then Mayor Ethan Strimling.  This public brick wall was often on display at city council meetings at city hall.)

It is taking much longer to complete the EPA ordered CSO quagmire than originally cotracted for.  This additional time is at an increased cost to city taxpayers because of the condition of the soil found at that Back Cove location during the excavation of the property.  It is very possible that the city did not know how bad the soil conditions were at the time of the bid process she emphasized.  “It’s hard to build on quick sand,” says this blogger.

By way of background for those unfamililar with the situation, when the rains came years ago when there were sewer lines and and drain lines were combined, that mess drained into Back Cove.  The federal DEP told the city you can’t do that any more.  So the DEP instructed the city to either separate the lines or redirect the flow to the Treatment Plant in order to eliminate the discharge into Back Cove.  Is this why construction is going underground?

Some who have lived in southern Maine for many years may remember Bill Caldwell who wrote a column for the Portland newspapers for years.  Originally from New York, he was a writer for Time-Life, during its prime years.  He and his first wife Barbara moved to Maine in 1965 where he began his career as a columuist for the Portland newspapers. At one time, he lived on the Eastern Promeade in Portland.  Prior to that though, Caldwell and his first wife owned a home in Damariscotta on Westview Road.  Caldwell, an excellent writer, first wrote about the infill from the Portland waterfront in one of his many books that made this blogger aware of the instability of the soil in such places that now exist in the Back Cove area and elsewhere.  Caldwell became a controversial resident of Damariscotta because of his out-of-marriage relationship with another women.  He wrote numerous books which are recommeded by this blogger.  He died in 1991 in Arizona with his seond wife.  His ashes were distributed over the coast of Maine.  A world traveler, he once told this blogger that the Eastern Prom was the most beautiful place in the world.

There it is – boys and girls – the scoop on the Back Cove CSO quagmire and a lilttle more!

This blogger has emailed the city’s spokeswoman, Jessica Grondin  requesting information on when the Back Cover overflow quagmire will be completed and at what cost to taxpayers that will be.  No response has been received at this time.




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