Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

DEP: Don't extend sewers to Partrick wetlands

By: Meg Learson Grosso, Staff Writer 09/09/2004
Printed in the Westport Minuteman

The Westport Board of Finance voted 6-0 to approve $37.7 million for a new waste water facilities treatment plant, subject to State Bond Council approval, when it met last Wednesday at Town Hall.

And state approval is far from automatic.

The Bond Council approval will be given only if the state Department of Environmental Protection submits an application for the town of Westport to the Bond Council. It appears that it will do that only if the town agrees that it will not extend sewers to the Partrick wetlands area, the area sometimes known as the F.D. Rich properties. The developer, ARS, has been trying for years to gain town approval for multiple houses there, despite vehement opposition by neighbors.

In a letter on August 12, 2004, to First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, the DEP's spokeswoman, Yvonne Bolton, who is Acting Chief, Bureau of Water Management, warned Farrell that any plans to extend sewers to Partrick wetlands "could create a complication" in funding for a new sewage treatment plant.

Bolton said that, in her opinion, the town has the authority, according to Connecticut General Statues, to forbid even the extension of sewers by private means, such as the developer's hooking up to Norwalk's sewers.

Bolton specifically asked Farrell to respond to these questions: "Does the town plan to modify its sewer service area map?"

The present map indicates that in the area in question, there will be no sewers north of properties adjacent to Stony Brook Road. That would rule out sewers on Partrick Road which is farther north.

The state DEP letter also asked: "How would the town justify the change as it relates to the State Conservation and Development Policies Plan and the Town's Plan of Development?"

A third question was: "How is the plan to sewer the Partrick wetlands consistent with Sec 7-246 (b) of the CGS? (Connecticut General Statutes)?"

A copy of the letter to Farrell was sent to both Steve Edwards, Westport's Director of Public Works, and to the Water Pollution Control Authority, which is the same as the Board of Selectmen.

Edwards told a Minuteman reporter that he had been on the phone with the DEP, telling them that "we have no plans to sewer that area." He said that Farrell would be writing a letter to the DEP to assure them of that. Farrell was out of her office on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

There has, however, been talk in the past of connecting the Partrick area to Norwalk sewers. Norwalk recently rejected a request by Westport to hook into its sewer system.

Edwards also said that $8.579 million of the $37.7 project would qualify for an outright grant. The remainder, or about $21 million, would qualify for a low interest loan of 2 percent. Edwards said that the DEP has been involved in the planning of the new waste treatment plan, which was necessitated by two issues. One was capacity and the other was the requirement to provide cleaner discharge.

"We will need a higher quality effluent, " he said. The most common requirement will be to limit the amount of nitrogen that is discharged. Too much nitrogen stimulates the growth of algae and weeds. When those weeds die off, they consume a great deal of the oxygen that is present in the water, thus leaving the water without enough oxygen for healthy aquatic life.

As for capacity, the present sewage plant has a capacity of 2.85 million gallons per day. Currently, it is processing only 2.2 million gallons per day. However, Edwards pointed out that good planning necessitates planning to build a new plant when it is at 75 percent capacity, to insure that one does not wait until capacity has been maximized. The new treatment plant would have a capacity of 3.4 million gallons per day. As septic systems fail in the areas already approved for sewers, people will hook into the sewers, instead of building individual septic systems.

The only finance board member who was absent last week was Jeffrey Mayer.