RIDGEFIELD — Despite the coronavirus pandemic halting most town government operations for several months, Ridefield’s $48 million sewage treatment proect is moving along.

To keep the town’s sewage treatment operations from polluting nearby waters like the Great Swamp, the Norwalk River and Long Island Sound, voters approved the plant renovation back in 2018.

“They’re working down there every day,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “It was a slow start, but they have coordinated working through the COVID situation. There’s excavation going on. There’s all kinds of stuff going on there.”

The renovation of the District I Wastewater Treatment Plant off South Street is making progress, according to Amy Siebert, chairwoman of the town Water Pollution Control Authority, which oversees all of Ridgefield’s sewer operations.

“It’s going well,” she said. “Work is occurring all over what is a very tight site.”

The upgrade project “touches pretty much everything in the plant,” she said July 29, and there’s no halting the treatment plant’s daily work while the renovation continues.

“Wastewater treatment plants operate 24/7, in a challenging environment,” Siebert said. “We can easily forget how hard that is on equipment and all the other infrastructure that surrounds it.”

Still, she was upbeat about the renovation project and ongoing operations.

“So far work is proceeding well, with plant staff able to keep things running while the contractor continues to keep the upgrade work moving,” she said. “It is not always easy to maintain plant operations during major construction.” requirements. So far, so good.”

Nitrogen, phosphorus

The state pushed the town to undertake the project to meet new regulations and environmental standards under the federal Clean Water Act.

The project will upgrade the more than 20-year-old South Street plant and improve the level of treatment the village area’s wastewater receives, reducing the levels of both nitrogen and phosphorus released into the Great Swamp, which drains into the Norwalk River and, eventually, Long Island Sound.

The work is being done by Spectraserve Inc. of South Kearney, N.J., the low bidder among four companies who vied for the project.

Although voters approved $48 million in 2018, the work on South Street is expected to require only $37.7 million of that.

The other part of the project involves shutting down the District II sewage treatment plant, which serves the area around the intersection of routes 7 and 35. Before the plant is closed, that project will require a force-main sewer line to be built from the Route 7 plant to South Street, so the wastewater can be treated there at what will be the newly renovated District I plant.

Jon Pearson, an engineer with AECOM, the consulting firm that designed and is overseeing both projects, said things will start moving on the District II closure plan in a few months, with a goal of having construction begin in the spring of 2021.

“That project will be bid late this year,” he said. “The construction period is shorter than for the treatment plant. The idea is they’ll both finish about the same time.”

Some concerns

Siebert said the South Street plant renovation project is largely on schedule, despite the COVID-19 concerns that have been affecting nearly everything. She did admit to a few worries going forward.

“We have been fortunate that the contractor was able to continue working through this spring, and all at the site are doing their very best to keep up the good practices of using personal protective equipment, hygiene, and distance to keep in good health,” she said. “As the project continues, we will see how the pandemic affects our schedule — its effects are creeping into some supply chains. I believe we may be receiving a request for an extra month to be added to our current schedule, related to the pandemic.”

Although the pandemic may present some difficulties, Siebert was glad the town had gotten the project going when it did.

“We’re getting it done at a good time,” she said. “We’re seeing that our existing equipment is ready to give up the ghost, so the sooner we get done, the better.”