Phase two of Ridgefield’s sewer project wins approval

It may create some traffic slow-downs on Route 7, but the second phase of the $48 million sewer renovation project — dismantling the District Two plant off Route 7, and building a pump station and pipeline to carry that area’s wastewater to the District One plant off South Street for treatment — has been approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission and Inland Wetlands Board.

After a public hearing at which two citizens spoke — one on the project’s cost, the other urging the planting of trees friendly to an endangered butterfly, the “phase two” plans were approved on 7-to-0 votes of the Inland Wetlands Board and then the zoning commission on Wednesday, Oct. 2.

Work on the project may reduce traffic flow to one lane on parts of Route 7, Haviland Road and Farmingville Road, according to written comments on the plans from Police Chief Jeff Kreitz.

If traffic is reduced to one lane, Chief Krietz recommended, the work in those areas should be done at night — between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Butterflies, money

In the public comment portion of the hearing, speaker Tracey Miller, a candidate in November’s election for the new separate Inland Wetlands Board, supported “the idea of adding trees” to the site of the new pump station.

She suggested some specific trees, urging the planting of “something that supports the Appalachian blue butterfly” — a protected species said to have habitat along the path of the planned pipeline from Route 7 to South Street.

The other public hearing speaker was a man who said his property is served by the sewer system, which has recently had a controversial 60% increase in user fees.

“No one really knows what this is going to cost us,” he said.

Jon Pearson of AECOM, the town’s sewer engineering consultants, responded by saying the cost for the phase two project — demolishing the District Two plant and building the pipeline and new pump station — would likely be “in excess of $10 million.”

The money will come from a $48 million appropriation approved by voters in November 2018 for the town’s entire sewer renovation plan — which also includes the phase one project, a major reconstruction of the District One sewer plant off South Street.

The first phase, the District I plant renovation, was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in late May, and Pearson said the contractor had been hired and was on the site getting ready to start work.

The District One treatment plant, serving the village and central Ridgefield, has a design capacity of 1 million gallons per day, and is operating at an average of about 885,000 gallons per day, Pearson said.

The District Two sewer plant, which serves commercial and multifamily development around the intersection of routes 7 and 35, has a capacity of 120,000 gallons per day.

The overall plan is to renovate the District One plant, then close the District Two plant and pipe that wastewater to South Street for treatment at the new, renovated plant — which will have a capacity 1,120,000 gallons a day.

Pipeline route

The route of the eight-inch force main will be from the new pump station to be built on the site of the old one along Route 7 near the Pond’s Edge Professional Park at 901 Ethan Highway, down Route 7 to Haviland Road, up Haviland to Limekiln Road, then Limekiln to Lee Road, Lee Road to Farmingville Road, and along Farmingville Road to Ligi’s Way, ending on South Street where the District One treatment plant is being renovated.

The project is necessitated by the state raising the standards for the treatment of wastewater for nitrogen, phosphorus and zinc.

But the two projects will also address the fact that both the District One and District Two treatment plants are getting old.

“Generally, wastewater treatment facilities have a life of about 20 years,” Pearson said, adding that their job requires treatment plants to operate “24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

He said the District One plant off South Street was “last upgraded in 1990” and the District Two plant off Route 7 was built in 1985 and “has never been upgraded.”

Trenchless technology

Another issue that came up at the hearing was the use of “trenchless technology” to bring the pipeline under the Norwalk River at one point, and Ridgefield Brook (which becomes the Norwalk River) at another.

Former town engineer Charles Fisher, now retired, was hired by the town to review engineering on the project as the “peer review consultant.” Fisher recommended that the trenchless technology also be used for a portion of the pipeline path along Farmingville Road.

The AECOM team estimated that the cost of doing this could be about a quarter of a million dollars.

It was not determined whether the trenchless technology will be required along this stretch of Farmingville Road — some details of the engineering for the project are to be finalized by the applicant and reviewed by Fisher on behalf of the town before the permits are issued.

The motion to approve phase two of the sewer project as made by commission member John Katz, and seconded by Mark Zeck.

“It’s a very complete application — voluminous, a lot to get through,” Katz said. “It seems to be on the money.”