CMBG to relocate wastewater treatment leach field outside of the Knickerbocker Lake watershed

Posted:  Tuesday, March 14, 2017 - 8:30am

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens announced today that it will relocate the leach field for its new wastewater treatment system outside of the Knickerbocker Lake watershed.

CMBG began work in January on the first phase of a 20-year master plan having received all necessary federal, state and local permits. As currently designed and permitted, the leach field for the wastewater treatment system that will serve the new Visitor Center and proposed Conservatory is located within the Knickerbocker Lake watershed. The location was approved by the state and the town because of the innovative and proven wastewater treatment system that treats the wastewater prior to discharging it into the leach field, which is located more than one-half mile from the lake. The system was designed after it was determined that the CMBG campus could not be cost-effectively served by a municipal sewer extension within the foreseeable future. The Bioclere® treatment system provides a high degree of treatment of wastewater effluent before it is directed to a leach field for further treatment. This type of decentralized wastewater treatment shows great promise in rural areas throughout Maine as a  cost-effective and more environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional septic systems.

Despite the proven technology, the Boothbay Region Water District as well as others in the community had raised concerns over potential impacts to the drinking water supply.

“We chose the original location for the leach field based on the topography and both the quality and depth of soils in that area,” President and CEO William Cullina said. “However, we understand the community’s concerns about the safety of our water supply. Although the original location for the leach field has been approved as safe by the Department of Health and Human Services, with the encouragement of the Water District, I asked our engineers to explore relocating the leach field to an area we had originally identified as a reserve site which is outside the watershed. The new area will require considerably more engineering and expense than the first location, and the construction and re-permitting will impact CMBG’s parking plans for this season — delaying the opening by about two weeks. The relocation to the new area will serve our needs and resolve community concerns.”

During the permitting phase last year, CMBG made several compromises and site design accommodations to the plans by increasing setbacks and removing several hundred parking spaces in the watershed, abandoning plans to improve Gaecklein Road for emergency access, eliminating existing impermeable surfaces in the watershed overlay district, and permanently placing in conservation 20 acres as a buffer to a neighbor.

Cullina said, “It is our expectation that the relocation of the leach field and the other adjustments already made will allow all parties to put the controversy to rest.”

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay has quickly grown to become the second most popular tourist destination in Maine. According to CMBG marketing director, Kris Folsom, they welcomed 188,000 visitors in 2016, and visitor spending contributed 50 million dollars to the regional economy. In response to its growing popularity, CMBG has begun work on a 20 year master plan that will feature new visitor and staff facilities, expanded gardens, a conservatory, propagation and research center, demonstration farm, nature trails and additional children’s education space. Cullina reports that this expansion will create an additional 100 year-round jobs and inject 75-100 million dollars a year into Maine’s economy. “We are very proud of what we have accomplished in the ten years since we opened, but this plan will bring our mission and economic impact to a whole other level,” he said. “With better infrastructure and the planned addition of our conservatory in a few years, we are confident we will create a year round destination that will foster many opportunities for businesses in the Boothbay Region and beyond,” he added.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, opened to the public in 2007. The mission of the Gardens is to inspire meaningful connections among people, plants and nature through horticulture, education and research. Its annual visitation includes guests from all fifty states and 65 foreign countries. For more information, please call 207-633-8000, or visit