Protect the Partrick Wetlands
WESTPORT — If funding is not secured for the upgrade to the town’s Wastewater Treatment Plant all sewer plans may need to be shelved until the plant can be improved.
The Planning and Zoning Commission met with several town officials Tuesday morning to discuss the future of the sewer system, especially the Saugatuck Shores project that now needs to be connected to the Westport plant.
The original plan was to connect the sewers at Saugatuck Shores to the Norwalk Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was slightly cheaper, but town officials will not pursue that avenue after early negotiations with the city, said Public Works Director Stephen Edwards.
The back up plan has been to connect the Saugatuck Shores sewers to the Westport plant, he said, which would have been slightly more expensive.
“I had not accounted for the cost of improvements in Norwalk,” he said.
“They have concerns with their plant and other additions, so they have been more guarded. It became apparent (Norwalk officials) would look for substantial infrastructure improvements. I am less optimistic in their willingness to take us with open arms.”
Taking the effluent at the Westport plant, he said, would mean a slight increase of the projected capacity to the treatment plant in the planned upgrade.
Currently the plan is for the plant to increase capacity from 2.8 million gallons per day to 3.3 million gallons per day, he said, but adding Saugatuck Shores would mean the capacity would need to be 3.4 million gallons per day.
The increase would not mean a significant change in the plans for the plant, he said, so the application before the commission would not have to be changed.
The changes would mean that the sewer shed area that has been determined for the town would not have to be changed, Edwards said.
The decision to connect nearly 350 homes in the Saugatuck Shores area to the Westport plant would be left to the Board of Selectmen acting as the Water Pollution Control Authority, Edwards said, and he plans to recommend the change in the plan over the next few weeks.
Westport-Weston Health District Director Judy Nelson said placing sewers in Saugatuck Shores has been a top priority since 1987.
“It stinks after a hurricane,” he said. “We had discussions of declaring a public health emergency there. This needs to be given priority so we can do it during my lifetime at the health district.”
If the $32 million to $34 million to improve the Wastewater Treatment Plant, however, is not available, Edwards said, he would have to put Saugatuck Shores and all other sewer petitions on hold until there is funding available to upgrade the plant.
“If there is no funding, I won’t take anyone else in,” he said. “The funding is to repair an aging plant and not about adding capacity.”
The plant is currently not in compliance with a state mandate, Edwards said, and if further sewers are connected to the plant the more the plant would be out of compliance.
R. Gavin Anderson, a Board of Finance member, said there should not be major concern about funding with the board because he believes the funding would pass.
“This is a terrific opportunity for the town,” he said. “It’s something Westport needs in the long-term and it’s not a short-term fix.”
First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said most of the funding concerns lie with the Representative Town Meeting because the plant upgrade is the last major capital improvement in the near future.
“The RTM is questioning the timing with all of the other debt,” she said. “They are asking what has to be done.”
In addition to discussing the Saugatuck Shores plan, the group also addressed other sewer issues including the ARS Partners project on the former F.D. Rich property, which is located between Partrick Road and Newtown Turnpike, and the potential of the Westport-Weston YMCA moving to Camp Mahackeno.
Farrell said it is unclear if Norwalk is still committed to allowing the ARS Partners project tie into its sewer system along Newtown Turnpike.
Mike Stashower, Planning and Zoning Commission member, said the property is not within the town’s sewer shed area, so if Norwalk does not allow the connection, ARS Partners will have to seek another avenue such as a system contained on its site.
Edwards said with both plans he would recommend against sewers tied into the Westport plant to the Water Pollution Control Authority because both properties are outside of the town’s sewer shed plan.
The authority, however, could reject his recommendation and then the plan would be brought to the commission for review, he said.
“Everyone would have a piece of the apple,” he said.