Protect the Partrick Wetlands
A sewer plan and map, researched and created in 2002 by the consulting firm of Stearns and Wheeler with input from the Planning and Zoning, Health and Conservation commissions, outlined the sewer needs for all of Westport looking forward for next 25 years. This report determined where sewers should or should not go within the Town. It was submitted to the DEP as part of the needed upgrade to Westport's water treatment facility.
The Partrick Wetlands and all of Northwestern Westport were designated, based on numerous factors including the Town Plan, size of lots, septic history, over-development impacts and even character of the communities, as a "sewer avoidance area."
In the letter, the DEP states "we have not found an exception for the Partrick Wetlands area in the approved facilities plan nor does the sewer service area map indicate this area to be within the sewer service area." The letter continues, "It is the Department's position that the facilities plan, including the sewer service area map, is the water pollution control plan for the town of Westport."
This brings two large issues to the fore. The first is financial. The ARS sewer extension places in jeopardy pending state grants and loans, of approximately $10 million, to Westport for the Town's Water Treatment facility which in turn could prevent the long overdue sewering of Saugatuck shores.
ARS is putting the Town and its residents at extreme financial risk with their insistence on sewering their project. They don't have to use sewers. They are choosing sewers solely to allow them to maximize the development and their profits by cramming 22 houses on 9 acres.
Regardless of the financial impact to the Town, the DEP's position on the sewer extension is clear, it is not supposed to encroach or exist in Westport's designated sewer avoidance area. As the DEP said, there are places "where sewers are acceptable and where sewers are not acceptable." In other words Saugatuck should be sewered, Partrick should not.
The Westport Water Pollution Control Authority (aka Board of Selectmen) in February of 2003 incorrectly approved the sewer extension when they were advised by the Town attorney that they did not have jurisdiction over it because the sewer was to be attached to the Norwalk system.
The WPCA did have jurisdiction and never should have allowed the ARS project to move forward. "Betsey Wingfield, acting director of the Planning and Standards Division of the DEP's Bureau of Water Management, said, in a phone interview with the Westport News, it does not matter if the proposed ARS development will be serviced by a sewer that connects to another town's treatment facility."
"The Town of Westport is responsible for what happens in its borders...regardless of where the sewage goes."
A mistake was made, it happens, it needs to be corrected, not compounded.
Amending the sewer coverage plan is not simple and the DEP questioned how that would jibe with the Town Plan and State Plan which both say the area should not be sewered. Looking to do so would also call into question why the Town would go out of its way just to aid a developer.
The use of an on-site community sanitary system would alleviate this situation entirely, decrease the number of houses and lessen the impact on the wetlands and the surrounding communities. The idea that sewers are mandatory for the zone is a fallacy that has been promoted by ARS and their attorney from day one.
On-site community sanitary systems are safe and part of sewerage avoidance plans that are supported and encouraged by the CT DEP and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Sewers bring nothing but sprawl, traffic congestion and over-development.
The DEP letter comes at a very important time. ARS has re-filed their sewer based application to Planning and Zoning, but clearly hearings should not occur. The State is questioning the sewer and the requisite WPCA approval was incorrect. In addition, Norwalk is actively reviewing the need for the sewer from their end and the DEP letter should only confirm to them what is obvious, that the sewer should not be permitted.
This new information should give Westport and everyone involved a chance to step back and look at the overall picture and realize that having a private developer extend a sewer line for their own benefit, is not in the better interests of the residents of Westport and Norwalk or for that matter the entire region.
The time has finally come to tell ARS Partners to go back to the drawing board and return with a proposal that is reasonable for the Town, the residents and the wetlands.