Sewer plant renovation heads to May 14 public hearing

The District I sewer plant off South Street is due for renovation. The cost is about $48 million.
The District I sewer plant off South Street is due for renovation. The cost is about $48 million.

Renovation of the town’s District I wastewater treatment plant to meet tougher environmental standards — the linchpin of the $48 million sewer project approved by voters last November — is scheduled for a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission and Inland Wetlands Board next Tuesday, May 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the town hall annex.
The treatment plant off South Street serves the downtown and village area, and is beyond it’s 20-year life expectancy, according to Amy Siebert, chairwoman of the Water Pollution Control Authority, the town agency that oversees the operation. The plant will be modernized and upgraded, reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the treated water that it releases into Great Swamp and the Norwalk River, leading eventually to Long Island Sound.
The plant renovation is part of a larger plan that also involves closing the District II treatment plant near the intersection of Routes 7 and 35, and piping the effluent from District II to South Street for treatment at the upgraded District I plant.
The District I plant’s capacity will go from 1 million gallons per day to 1,120,000 gallons a day — though this isn’t regarded as an expansion of overall capacity, since the 120,000 gallons-per-day District II plant will be closed as part of the project.
The District I plant renovation is the central aspect of the plan, expected to take up nearly $32 million of the entire sewer project’s $48 million anticipated cost. Phase II of the plan, which the $48 million is also expected to cover, includes building a pump station and pressured sewer line to carry wastewater from the commercial and multifamily development around the intersection of Routes 7 and 35 to South Street, where wastes from both sewer districts will be treated at the renovated District I plant. That will allow the District II plant to be closed — saving the town the cost of upgrading that plant, and also saving money on operations.
With a number of municipalities seeking bids for sewer projects, Siebert admitted to being a little nervous about construction bids — due to be opened Friday, May 10.
“We can only hope that we will get good results,” Siebert said. “Many wastewater utilities across the state are all bidding significant projects this spring season.”
“We have to have a contract awarded by July 1st, and we’re on schedule to achieve that — assuming all the bids come in and we have a contract that’s acceptable,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.
Awarding the contract by July 1 is important because the town is seeking grants that could reduce local taxpayers’ cost by some $11.5 million, but the project needs to meet the July 1 deadline to be eligible.
Getting the $11.5 million in grants would leave a projected $36.5 million in costs to be paid by the town, its taxpayers and sewer users. That cost would be financed through the Clean Water Fund at 2 percent interest, Marconi said.
Projections are that about $8 million of the cost would be borne by general taxpayers — many with homes on septic systems —and the remainder would be covered by sewer users who more directly benefit. That repayment cost is to be covered largely through sewer use and hookup fees. Fees are expected to about double, although the increase would be phased in.
Plans for the South Street plant’s renovation project were formally accepted April 9 by the Planning and Zoning Commission and Inland Wetlands Board.
A previous issue of The Press mistakenly reported the date of the hearing on the sewer plant as May 7.