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Village Gets $4M From Federal Government To Address Struggles With Oversized Water Utility

Village Of Maine Has Far Too Much Water After Paper Mill Closure

Brokaw Village Hall sits in the shadow of the shuttered Wausau Paper mill
Glen Moberg/WPR

The Village of Maine in Marathon County is getting $4 million from the federal government to overhaul a water utility that relied on a now-closed paper mill.

The Village of Maine absorbed the neighboring Village of Brokaw after the Wausau Paper Corp. closed its mill there in 2012, leading residents to vote to dissolve the community over financial difficulties.

The Village of Maine also took over Brokaw’s water utility, which, itself, was in a bind from the mill closure.

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It was designed to provide the mill with 66 million gallons of water each year when Brokaw’s citizens only needed 3.5 million gallons. Without it’s largest customer the utility had a problem with water staying in its pipes for too long, which made treatment efforts less effective.

As a short term fix Brokaw spent $40,000 a year flushing 13 million gallons of water through the system annually.

Village of Maine President Betty Hoenisch said instead of paying to flush the system, they decided to drill a new well and retool the utility. But rebuilding a water utility takes money and Hoenisch said they’ve borrowed to get by.

Now, with the help of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the Village of Maine is getting a $2,892,000 grant and a $1,173,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program.

“I’m pleased to announce a much needed investment to improve the drinking water quality in Brokaw and Maine,” Baldwin said. “This investment will help Brokaw continue recovering and rebuilding, while providing the clean water that our rural communities deserve. Together, we will build a stronger future for Brokaw.”

Hoenisch said the federal dollars will go a long way toward paying for engineering studies on where to site a new well and running new pipes.

“And then as soon as we get those results, then hopefully we will be moving forward with the help of this grant and loan and this is just phenomenal,” Hoenisch said.

She said the goal is to come up with a water utility solution that meets the needs of residents and takes into account future growth potential.