Ridgefield outlines reasons for sewer rate hike

Responding to a landslide of complaints about 60% increase in sewer rates, the town has put out an “sewer rate information sheet” with seven bullet-points.

The information sheet explains the thinking behind the price increase approved by the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) as its attempts to handle the costs of the $48 million sewer improvement project approved by voters in November 2018.

The information sheet says:

• “The WPCA is undertaking the Wastewater Facilities Upgrade project to upgrade both its wastewater treatment facilities (South Street WWTF and Route 7 WWTF) to meet new effluent permit requirements and address the facilities’ aging infrastructure.”

• “The WPCA evaluated a number of alternatives for the facilities upgrades and concluded that consolidating both WWTFs to the South Street Wastewater Treatment Facility was the preferred alternative based on cost and operations considerations. By combining the facilities, the WPCA is able to save both capital and operating costs versus upgrading and operating the facilities independently.”

• “The upgrades to the facilities are required due to more stringent effluent limits imposed by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) and to provide reliable wastewater treatment to protect the Town’s water resources.”

• “The facilities upgrades are overdue, as many systems and equipment at the WWTFs are past their service life. The WPCA is mandated by the CTDEEP to keep these facilities in good operating order to meet the permitted wastewater effluent requirements.”

• “The WPCA has met the required deadline to be eligible for CTDEEP’s 50% (Estimated $3.2 million with the exact amount to be finalized through the DEEP process; grant funds are available and allocated to the program) Phosphorus Grant program, by awarding and executing the South Street WWTF Upgrade construction contract. The Route 7 Pump Station, Force Main and WWTF Decommissioning construction contract is scheduled to be issued for public bid next year.”

• “The state has grants and low interest loans to support this project, through the CTDEEP Clean Water Fund, which has been funded by the state. The WPCA is now filing an application through the state’s process to secure the estimated $11.5 million in grants, (final figure determined through the DEEP process; funds are allocated to this grant program), and a low interest rate (2%) loan from the CTDEEP Clean Water Fund to reduce the cost of the project to the Town’s ratepayers.”

• “As presented during the public information meetings held by the WPCA in the Fall 2018 regarding the voter referendum on funding the Wastewater Facilities Upgrade project, the WPCA engaged a sewer rate consultant to evaluate various approaches to funding the upgrades. This evaluation concluded that the recent sewer rate increase of an additional $280 per year, per user was necessary to fund the Wastewater Facilities Upgrade project.”

• “As always, we hope that the public is supportive of these efforts to provide ongoing wastewater treatment services that have served the Town well for many years and are designed to do so for many more.”