OLD SAYBROOK EVENTS * SUMMER 2009
Old Saybrook Water Pollution Control
August 11, 2009:
Wastewater Management District Referendum
The Board of Selectmen's (BOS) Office has provided the Old Saybrook
Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) with the opportunity to
fill this issue of Old Saybrook Events because the town is preparing
for a critical vote.
On August 11, Old Saybrook residents will be asked to cast their
ballots for the establishment of a Wastewater Management District
through an ordinance, its associated funding, and subsequent
implementation of the District. Basically, the WWMD consists of 15
areas identified by engineering studies as requiring upgrade of
their septic systems. This is per agreement between the Connecticut
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the OS WPCA in
response to the 1997 Connecticut Supreme Court order to abate
pollution of the groundwater. Systems already in compliance need not
upgrade. Costs depend on the upgrades but will be mitigated by a
town- and State-funding program, including services, grants, and
loans. The program is not intended to be onerous. A negative vote
will likely result in a return to court, imposition of fines, and
the construction of a central treatment plant, fed by sewer lines
and discharging into the Connecticut River. See DEP Commissioner's
The articles in this issue contain more detailed information on the
Decentralized Wastewater Management Program (DWMP) developed by the
WPCA, BOS, and their legal and engineering consultants and formally
presented in the draft Wastewater Management Facilities Plan. The
alternative to the DWMP is a centralized program consisting of sewer
lines connecting to a central treatment plant discharging into the
Connecticut River. This summer Old Saybrook Events includes the WWMD
map showing the 15 "focus areas," introduction to the program,
history of the focus areas, what is expected to occur on the subject
properties, why the State has cited OS for groundwater pollution
from septic systems, comparison of the alternatives, the Upgrade
Standards, the funding program, implementation schedule, and a list
of Frequently Asked Questions.
All this information plus legal documents, background, detailed maps
of the focus areas, slide presentation, and contacts are available
on the WPCA website, www.oswpca.org. Please note that every focus
area has been invited to a Public Education session specific to
their neighborhood based on their ability to attend (summer
community versus year-round). As the meetings are held, the map for
the neighborhood is updated according to the latest septic system
information in WPCA and Health District files. The maps provide an
idea of what will need to be done on each lot, e.g., nothing,
replace a septic tank, upgrade the leaching system, a combination,
or install an alternative treatment system.
If you have been unable to attend, there are still some outstanding
dates. You are welcome to come to those. And of course, the WPCA
meets at the Saybrook Point Pavilion at 7:30 P.M. on the 2nd and 4th
Mondays of every month. Along with these meetings and website, the
Public Education portion of the program includes binders and
handouts available at Town Hall and in the Acton Library as well as
media outreach. Please take some time to review this program so you
can make an informed decision on August 11. Also, please remember
that the most qualified persons to answer questions on the DWMP are
WPCA members, staff, consultants, and the Selectmen. Other sources
may be unreliable.
Other Important Dates: July 29, 2009:
The Town Meeting at which the
referendum items will be presented will be held in the high school
auditorium at 7:00 p.m.
Decentralized Wastewater Management
How Does the Decentralized Wastewater
Management Program (DWMP) Affect Residents
Outside of the Proposed WWMD?
The Town of Old Saybrook has been funding the Sewer Avoidance
Initiative for over twenty years, both before and after the 1989
vote against the Tri-town sewer treatment plant. Residents' tax
monies have been paying for: engineering and legal consultants, WPCA
staff, the pumpout program, Connecticut River Area Health District,
groundwater sampling, mediation efforts, public education, and
nitrogen-reduction efforts. Most of this will not change. Wastewater
treatment, environmental protection, and public health are town-wide
responsibilities. The DWMP is part of this but is physically limited
to one proposed "District" composed of fifteen neighborhoods.
The cost of the onsite program is $45 million. The breakdown:
residents in the fifteen focus areas (1900 properties) of the WWMD
will pay one-half of the cost to upgrade their systems (if
required); the State Clean Water Fund grant will allot 25 percent,
and the Town (all taxpayers) will pay 25 percent for services such
as engineering, administration, and remote monitoring costs.
So, if you do not live in the Waste Water Management District
(WWMD), you are only responsible for your system pumpout and
maintenance along with any Town support (WPCA/Sewer Avoidance
budget) through Town budgeting.
The cost of the central treatment plant and sewer lines is estimated
at $71 million (not including the land.)
However, white the properties connected to the central treatment
plant would pay the operation and maintenance costs, they would only
be responsible for the amount of benefit their property receives.
This is known as a "benefit assessment" and is regulated by
legislation and the Connecticut General Statutes. Any remaining
costs come out of the Town coffers, which would be fueled by
non-user sewer fees. In other words, the whole town would pay for
something only 2500 properties (600 additional properties would be
served) receive benefit from. Although the town is still eligible
for 25 percent Clean Water Fund grants for the centralized
alternative, the DEP has warned that enforcement of the plant and
sewers may jeopardize the funding (construction may not be on
schedule with the grant availability.) See April 15, 2008 DEP letter
A more comprehensive explanation is presented in the Comparison
Table of Wastewater Treatment Alternatives included in this booklet.
Voting for the WWMD Ordinance and funding is a vote for the Sewer
Avoidance initiative, which has been supported through efforts like
the 2000 Plan of Conservation and Development, 5-year pumpout
program, nitrogen-reduction efforts, and slow growth policy. The
WPCA and Board of Selectmen believe this is a more fiscally and
environmentally sound program for Old Saybrook.
Voting against the WWMD Ordinance and funding will result in the CT
Department of Environmental Protection returning to the CT Supreme
Court and most probably initiating the process to implement a
central treatment plant fed by sewers and discharging into the CT
River for 2500 properties.
In any case: "To do nothing" is not an option. Voting down the WWMD
referendum (August 2009) or refusal to act will most likely result
in a return to court and enforcement of the treatment plant and
sewers, along with penalties of court costs, fines, loss of local
control, and jeopardizing of the Town's bond rating. The fines that
were assessed by the Court but not collected could be re-instituted
and more costly fines imposed. Knowingly causing nuisance pollution
and not taking action has possible fines of $500 a day for the
documented period of time.
If you have any questions please view the website, read the
materials in the Library, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We
welcome you to attend any of the public education meetings and our
It is important to note that property owners residing in the
proposed wastewater management district are not the only ones
responsible for the cost of the program. The entire Town, through
tax dollars has been paying for the Sewer Avoidance initiative for
over 20-years. Some costs associated with the development of the
program include engineering and legal consultants, the mediation
process, staff salaries, administration, pumpout program, and public
education efforts. Clean Water Fund grants have helped to mitigate
the costs and should continue to do so, provided there is grant
money available and the approved program and expenses are adhered
to. The 25% contribution for services will also come out of Town
COST TO UPGRADE
WILL RANGE FROM *$0 TO $28,000
* Some systems are already upgrade compliant, some may need tanks or
leaching, while others may need an advanced treatment system. here
is the breakdown.
* The Clean Water Fund will provide 25%
* The Town will contribute 25% in services such as site
investigation, upgrade designs, administration, and monitoring.
* The property owner is responsible for 50% of the upgrade costs and
may choose to finance it over 20-years at 2%.
Wastewater Management Area Selection
How were the Wastewater
Management District Areas Selected?
Why Aren't Other Beach Areas or
Waterfront Properties Included?
The areas currently under consideration for a decentralized solution
are those for which a community pollution problem is documented to
exist, and for which a comparison to the previous proposed solution
(centralized sewers) can be reasonably prepared, so as to allow the
conclusion that a DWMD (Decentralized Wastewater Management
District) is the most cost-effective solution, as required by state
Why won't DEP allow Old Saybrook to address all its shoreline
neighborhoods with a decentralized wastewater management approach?
The previously identified study areas are those for which solutions
are required by the court order. Addressing those areas is the first
priority. Why aren't all waterfront properties in town being
required to meet the proposed Upgrade Standards? The DEP is not
restricting the addition of other areas, as long as their addition
doesn't change the schedule for the court-ordered areas, and all
statutory requirements are met.
The basis for the current efforts to address wastewater in Old
is the court-imposed resolution of the legal action taken by CT DEP
against the Town of Old Saybrook. In 1989, under the requirements of
a DEP order to address community pollution problems, the Old
Saybrook WPCA, acting in conjunction with other town boards,
approved a wastewater management plan that recommended the
construction of conventional sewers and a centralized wastewater
treatment plant with a discharge to the Connecticut River. In the
November 1989 referendum, however, the voters in Old Saybrook did
not approve the project. Following the referendum, the town took no
other action to modify the project, propose an alternative solution,
and bring it back before the voters. The noncompliance with a DEP
order to address pollution problems, combined with no good-faith
effort on the part of the town to identify and pursue alternative
solutions, led to DEP suing the town in 1990.
What Will Be Done on my Property When
the Wastewater Management District is
Implemented? What is the Schedule? Cost?
First, only those properties located in the WWMD will be affected.
These 15 focus areas can be viewed on the website. Chalker Beach,
Indiantown, Saybrook Manor, Cornfield Park, Great Hammock, Plum
Bank, Cornfield Point, Maple Avenue North, Saybrook Acres, Oyster
River East, Ingham Hill, Meadowood, Fenwood, Saybrook Point, and
Properties located elsewhere in Town must continue to follow the
5-year pump out program and maintain their septic systems.
The implementation phases are: Research, Design, Bidding,
Construction, and Operation and Maintenance.
Once the WWMD ordinance is approved along with the associated
funding and financing programs, the Research Phase can begin. During
the Research Phase, The Town will evaluate each system on a
lot-by-lot basis; including test hole evaluation and exploration to
determine the nature of the upgrades, if any are required.
The Design Phase entails the development of a septic system plan for
each lot whether it requires upgrading a conventional system
(replacing an old undersized tank with an appropriate sized
2-compartment tank or an alternative treatment system.) Some lots may
require additional leaching area or the removal of a cesspool or
perhaps a dry well that is too deep.
Engineers will work with the homeowner for the best placement on the
lot; considering different configurations and components to minimize
impact and maximize landscaping aesthetics.
Costs may range from $0 to $28,000, with an Advanced Treatment
system being the most expensive. Examples of component costs are:
replace septic tank = $2000 to $3000, add more leaching = $1000 to
$7000, advanced treatment with new leaching system = $12,000 to
$28,000. The WPCA is investigating alternative and advanced
treatment systems; none have been chosen to date. Since technologies
are still evolving it is conceivable that this will positively
impact the footprint and pricing of the units.
The Bidding Phase will allow the Town to choose the most economical
vendors to provide the components and installation. The Town is
prepared to negotiate with the installers and vendors in order to
obtain bulk rate prices on products and services.
Development and Implementation of an O & M Plan (Operation and
Maintenance). This will be going on simultaneously as systems are
installed or come online. AT systems require remote monitoring. The
Town will be responsible for monitoring the systems. If a problem
should arise, an alarm notifies the Town and the property owner who
makes the repairs. After the August 2009 referendum, the entire
project is estimated to take about 8 years, beginning at the
end of 2009 and finishing in 2017.
|Oyster River East
|Great Hammock Beach
||Maple Avenue North
Why Does The DEP Say That My
Septic System Is Polluting?
According to the EPA, septic systems are the second biggest
contributor to groundwater pollution. Statistics across the country
show that approximately 10% of systems fail annually and 20% are
malfunctioning in some way. With 4 billion gallons of wastewater
dispersed below the ground daily, poorly maintained systems pose not
only environmental threats, (nitrogen and phosphorus) but also
significant public health concerns with the introduction of viruses
and bacteria to surface water or drinking water wells.
The engineering studies and the DEP identified the 15 focus areas in
the proposed wastewater management district over 20 years ago as
"areas of concern." There are several reasons for this.
* Some of the areas are low lying, or with close proximity to
surface waters, and have a shallow depth to groundwater. Indeed some
of the systems' components are in the groundwater or become
saturated during high tides or storm events.
* Many of the locales are densely populated, with lots that are too
small to effectively renovate the wastewater (have enough room for
adequate leaching area).
* Some of the soils are inadequate for proper percolation to allow
the removal of bacteria, viruses, and nutrients.
* Many of the systems are old (some 30-40 years) with noncompliant
components like: drywells instead of properly sized leaching
systems, undersized tanks (300-750 as opposed to 1000 gallon),
single compartment instead of 2-compartment tanks, lack of effluent
filters, missing baffles, cesspools, steel tanks, and a few homemade
If these reasons why some septic systems are polluting the
groundwater in Old Saybrook aren't compelling enough, the WPCA has
done sampling over the years ....
From 1996-2006 Old Saybrook hired CEI (Cummins Envirotech Inc.) to
monitor 84 micro wells that were installed throughout the 15 focus
areas. While the results were not evidence of gross pollution there
were hits in each sampling event. The data from the program varied
considerably from location to location and sometimes at the same
location at different times.
The samples were taken during the different seasons and showed
evidence of: shallow groundwater (particularly in Chalker Beach,
Indiantown, and Saybook Manor), nitrogen, varying from zero to
30mg/l as N, ammonia, and fecal coliform. Although it is arguable
that some hits may be due to lawn fertilizer use (a "No No"
especially near the shore and River!), and animals, the engineers
maintain that the ammonia results point to human impact. This means
raw wastewater is discharged from septic systems into the
The Connecticut Water Quality Standard for fecal coliform (bacteria
found in the gut of warm blooded animals) is zero. That means there
should not be bacteria in good quality groundwaters. The sampling
did find fecal coliform in the majority of the microwells at one
time or another. Although most of the hits have shown less than 100
colonies, some have been in the 1000s which could be attributed to
the highly permeable soils. These soils do not allow for sufficient
removal mechanisms to prevent pathogens from entering the
The conclusion drawn from the groundwater sampling is that treatment
of the effluent is inadequate in many cases, is degrading the
groundwater, and does not protect the environment.
This groundwater monitoring was discontinued in 2006, after the DEP
and WPCA mediation process. The DEP and WPCA concluded that enough
data was compiled and the funds were best directed towards the
planning phase of the Decentralized Wastewater Management Program.
What Are The Benefits Of An Onsite
Wastewater Management Program?
Although it is difficult to measure and document specific cause and
effect relationships between onsite wastewater treatment systems and
the quality of our water resources it is widely accepted that
improperly managed systems (resulting from inadequate siting,
design, construction, installation, operation, and/or maintenance)
contribute to major water quality problems.
Benefits of a management program are realized by both the
communities and the individual property owners. They include the
Protection of public health and local water resources: Septic system
failures in the form of yard backups have been recognized as a
public health hazard and insult to natural resources. Improved
management practices minimize the occurrence of failures and ensure
that pollutants are adequately treated and properly dispersed.
Protection of property values management programs offer an
opportunity to obtain the same level of service and aesthetics as
sewered communities at a fraction of the cost, thus providing
property appreciation and cost savings.
Groundwater conservation: A well managed onsite system will
contribute to groundwater recharge, as opposed to the declining
water tables and water shortages experienced by over-developed and
Preservation of tax base: A well-managed onsite program will prevent
small communities from having to finance the high cost of
centralized sewers. Many small communities have exhausted their tax
base at the expense of public safety and education, to pay for the
sewers. They then entice growth to increase the tax base,
sacrificing the small town character that attracted residents
Life-cycle cost savings: There is a clear indication that in many
cases management may pay for itself in terms of lower failure rates
and alleviate the need for premature system replacement.
WPCA: Frequently Asked Questions
Why are we upgrading septic systems and establishing a Wastewater
Management District (WWMD)? It is the town's responsibility to
protect the environment according to the standards set by the
regulatory agencies (EPA, CTDEP). Investigations determined that
certain areas of Old Saybrook with aged systems, shallow groundwater
table within close proximity to the State's waters, and dense
development need to upgrade septic systems in order to meet current
wastewater treatment standards. The town was required to pursue
available solutions. A town-wide referendum and mediation with CTDEP
resulted in the town selecting individual property on-site solutions
instead of a central wastewater treatment plant fed by sewers. The
areas designated by the WWMD are subject to septic system upgrades,
implemented according to the Wastewater Facilities Plan and subject
to approval by the CTDEP.
Why do we need a wastewater management district? Why can't our WPCA
direct this process without adding another level of bureaucracy?
State legislation was adopted in 2003 providing for the formation of
Wastewater Management Districts (WWMD). The WWMD additions to the
Connecticut General Statutes (Chapter 103, Sections 7-245 to 7-
249a) provide a mechanism for municipal Water Pollution Control
Authorities (WPCAs) to manage decentralized wastewater programs and
allows for adoption of standards for on-site systems that may
differ from the current Public Health Code (PHC), including use of
advanced treatment systems.
If my system is working well, why am I required to upgrade my
system? If you are within the WWMD and your system meets the
Upgrade Standards and Ordinance 75, you would not likely need to
make any physical changes. Malfunctioning systems are not always
evident, however. Properties outside of the WWMD are subject to
requirements of Ordinance 75 only. For further information see
Ordinance 75 on the OSWPCA website.
Why do we have to do this in the absence of any gross pollution?
Chapter 446k Water Pollution Control Sec. 22a423 of the CT General
Statutes states that there does not need to be evidence of "gross
pollution" to protect the State's waters. In OS there are many
old/aging domestic wastewater treatment systems in environmentally
sensitive areas that do not meet health-code standards (depth to
groundwater, tank and leaching field size). These systems must be
improved to meet the applicable treatment standard.
Can you prove that my house is polluting, and if so, how? Every
home that is occupied will release domestic wastewater from a
variety of sources. These include toilets, showers, bathroom and
kitchen sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, etc. These wastewater
streams will contain cleaning chemi-, cals, human waste products,
and, at times, pathogens and pharmaceutical chemicals. The septic
system must be properly sized, located, constructed, and maintained
to reliably treat these potentially harmful waste materials. The
Public Health Code establishes the minimum standards needed for
septic systems to protect the environment. It is the homeowner's
obligation to prevent improperly treated wastewater from entering
the groundwater, rather than relying on public health and
environmental agency staff to continuously sample and analyze each
home's discharge to confirm a harmful release isn't occurring.
Can we postpone the septic system upgrades to a future date? Old
Saybrook was shown to not have acted in good faith, assessed a fine
by a Supreme Court Justice, and ordered to remediate the
groundwater pollution in identified areas. "To do nothing" would
incur further Court actions (reinstated and additional fines,
orders) and a loss of local control.
Why can't installations and upgrades be done through attrition as
old systems need to be replaced? The WPCA did consider a plan to
replace systems over time as property changed hands. That is what
Massachusetts has done in their Title 5 regulation. In
Massachusetts, when you sell your property you need to bring it up
to standards. WPCA proposed using a similar approach for Old
Saybrook. DEP turned down this approach on the basis the necessary
improvements would not come fast enough.
Why are we only looking at focus areas? Why isn't this being
addressed on a town-wide basis? WPCA is first addressing those
neighborhoods that have been identified by DEP as needing
improvements. The Town of Old Saybrook does have a five-year
pump-out program. Many of the pump-outs have been witnessed by a WPCA
inspector. So there is a town-wide program, though it only requires
repairs when system failures are discovered.
Will the septic system upgrades be limited to the fifteen
neighborhoods or will eventually 100 percent of the town need to be
included in the WWMD? If so, wouldn't this make a central treatment
plant more desirable? The court order does not allow DEP to change
anything unilaterally. After the Stipulation Order has been
satisfied, the management of the WWMD resides with the WPCA, not the
DEP. A central wastewater treatment plant and sewers would not be
more desirable. Estimated cost for a wastewater treatment plant and
sewers to serve 2500 properties is $71 million. It would cost many
more millions to "sewer" the whole town. If more properties are
added to the WWMD it would be more cost effective to upgrade onsite
septic systems in an incremental manner than to either oversize a
central wastewater treatment plant or to make future retrofit
modifications. Properties in many areas of town have larger lots,
less density, better depth to groundwater, and do not abut surface
water, thus they likely will not require upgrades if they have a
Public Health Code compliant system.
Will an Advanced Treatment System allow me to convert my home to
year-round occupancy (winterize)? Having an ATS does not satisfy all
of the year-round occupancy requirements. A code-compliant septic
system is only one of the criteria. Upgrades and/or AT systems may
help to meet requirements. The Code of Old Saybrook (Ordinances)
contains Ordinance 62 - Winterization of Seasonal Properties. There
are several factors listed in this section, sewage disposal being
only one of them. Other factors required to reclassify a property
include compliance with Zoning Regulations; compliance with Flood
Plain Regulations; and suitability of the structure with regard to
wiring, heating system, insulation and plumbing.
Wouldn't a seasonal home (where the water is shut off from Nov. to
April) be fine with a reasonably new septic system? All septic
systems are sized based on the number of bedrooms rather than
estimated average annual water usage. Septic systems have to be
sized to handle the amount of wastewater during peak usage.
Where can the public obtain definitive information on the Upgrade
Standards to determine if a property requires a system upgrade? The
maps show preliminary estimates on what needs to be done on
individual lots. The legends show where septic tanks might need to
be replaced and AT systems need to be installed. The Upgrade
Standards can be found in the Wastewater Facilities Plan, copies of
which are in the library and town hall and on the website. When the
implementation process takes place, research will be done on
individual lots to determine what needs to be done. Possible
requirements might include replacing the septic tank, adding an
effluent filter, or nothing. The design and construction will take
place subsequently on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis during
Is Old Saybrook the only town the State required to do something?
No, but we are the first town taken to court and will establish a
WWMD with on-site solutions. There are only six unsewered shoreline
towns in CT at this point, starting from Guilford across to Old
Lyme. The DEP is also working with Clinton and Westbrook and have
started discussions with Madison. The other two towns will come in
Of all the shoreline towns, why was Old Saybrook targeted for suit
by the State first? Old Saybrook voted down the Tri-town sewer
system in 1989, while under a DEP pollution abatement order. The
town took no other action to modify the project, propose an
alternative solution, and bring it before the voters after the 1989
referendum. The noncompliance with a DEP order, combined with no
good-faith effort on the part of the town to find alternative
solutions, led to DEP suing the town in 1990. With regard to the
other shoreline towns, both Clinton and Westbrook are under DEP
orders, have contracts with environmental consultants, and are
pursuing solutions to their wastewater issues. Old Lyme is
currently installing sewers (to the New London treatment plant via
East Lyme). Actions required for Madison and Guilford are
developing more slowly due in part to DEP staffing limitations.
What's the guarantee the septic system upgrades will work? Who is
responsible for system failures? There won't be specific
guarantees. However there is a series of steps that the WPCA plans
to take: 1. get the right solution for each lot; 2. select a
specific set of AT systems with proven track records. There is a
strong O & M component to this program. Those with AT systems are
required to have a qualified operations firm checking on and
maintaining those systems. The town will install remote monitoring
of the AT systems. If there is an alarm condition reported to the
service provider and WPCA office, someone will service it. These
are the types of approaches the WPCA will have in place to make
sure the systems operate properly over time.
How is the decentralized plan consistent with the Town Plan of
Conservation and Development? The Town's Plan of Conservation and
Development is based on a decentralized or sewer avoidance program.
Planning, Zoning, and the WPCA have chosen sewer avoidance and a
systematic, controlled pattern of growth. While a sewer line may
benefit some property owners along Route 1, it would also tend to
promote higher density. The result in other shoreline towns has
been subsequent construction of large commercial buildings.
Individual residential property owners would incur a detriment to
quality of life.
How were the WWMD areas selected? The origin of the selected areas
is historic public health designations.
Why are the areas of Fenwick (waterfront), Knoliwood (waterfront),
and North Cove (waterfront) exempt? These areas are not exempt and
may be included in future upgrade projects, though they are not
part of the initial upgrade program (as defined by the DEP). The
DEP refused to allow the town to change the boundaries of the
targeted areas during the final mediation. However, note that the
Special Act of the State Legislature that established the Borough
of Fenwick in the 1890s includes their Charter, which gives the
Borough the authority to control their sewage treatment (not the
Town of Old Saybrook).
Where do we find maps of areas included in the WWMD? Maps are
available at town hall, at www.oswpca.org, and at the library.
Will all waterfront lots be required to upgrade to Advance
Treatment Systems? Only those within the WWMD are required to
install ATS at this time. Other waterfront areas may be included in
What happens after the septic system upgrade is completed?
Homeowners get a permit to operate and will continue to maintain
the system. Monitoring for AT systems will be by remote telemetry
to a central station.
In the process of implementation of the upgrades, why won't the
beach areas be the first to require upgrades? There is an
implementation schedule that the WPCA worked out with the DEP. The
first area to be addressed is Saybrook Acres, which is not an
especially challenging neighborhood. Saybrook Acres has relatively
few fixes to make the lots code compliant.
The reason for this choice is to get the program
up and running before we do get to the more challenging areas that
require AT systems.
How do the costs for the decentralized wastewater program compare
to the costs of a central treatment plant and sewers? Fuss &
O'Neill (the engineering firm contracted by WPCA) calculated:
Central Treatment System: $59.1 million for sewers + $12.2 million
for the treatment facility = $71.3 million. This does not include
the cost of land and operators. Cost per property owner is approx.
$28,100. O & M = $500 per year. Decentralized program: $40-45
million. Cost per property owner in WWMD ranges from $0 for those
who need no upgrade to $28,100 for those who need ATS (approx. 25%
of WWMD). O & M = $250 every 5 years for conventional system, $600 -
$800 per year for ATS.
Will grants or loans be available? Based on preliminary
assessments most upgrades will cost less than $14,000. Cost of
upgrades will be reduced by grants (from the Clean Water Fund) and
assisted by low-interest loans (2 percent over twenty years). The
average cost of an upgrade after grants and town
contribution is in the range of $9,200 - $11,900, based on the
proposed funding. Low income homeowners may apply for assistance
through Social Services. Low interest loans will also be available.
Is grant money also available for a central treatment plant?
Typically, Clean Water Funds are applicable for a central treatment
plant. Voting down the referendum may jeopardize funding from the
State in this case, though.
What is the consequence facing the homeowner if they are unable to
pay the cost of the process? There will be grant money and 2
percent loans and staff will work with homeowners to help them take
advantage of available support. There is a $300,000 Small Cities
grant for those who require help. Youth and Family Services is
If we upgrade now are we eligible for a grant? No, the process for
upgrade financing is not in place yet. However, if you qualify as a
low-income owner, money is available for repairs to current septic
systems through Youth and Family Services.
Who will pay for the monitoring and maintenance of the AT systems?
The homeowner will pay for any needed maintenance. The town will
bear 100 percent of the administration, enforcement, and monitoring
costs. The town will provide staffing for the oversight of the
upgrade program, while the Connecticut River Area Health District
oversees conventional systems.
Why will the cost of ATS be passed on to the homeowners instead of
sharing the costs equally among all residents? Like all septic
systems, ATs serve the property they are on. It is the homeowner's
property and responsibility. Homeowners outside the WWMD will be
required to meet regulations and maintenance for septic systems
described in Ordinance 75 (five-year pumpout program).
Is an AT system better than a conventional system? An AT system is
not necessarily better; it depends on the situation. If you have
enough land and reasonable soils, a conventional system is fine.
Conventional systems work well and rely on solids settling and
treatment in the septic tank, plus additional aerobic activity and
biological treatment in the ground. Some lots are so small they are
unable to support sufficient treatment. These lots require AT
systems for proper treatment and to remove nitrogen to protect the
groundwater and Long Island Sound.
How long have AT systems been on the market? More than fifty years
with new designs being marketed continuously.
Have any AT systems been installed? What were the results? There
are hundreds of successful systems installed in coastal Rhode
Island. At URI they monitor AT systems in controlled conditions
(have wastewater running through their test systems). They also
have very good data available on Cape Cod. The National Sanitation
Foundation (NSF) has a new standard for nitrogen-removal systems.
Should I install an AT System now if it appears I'll need one?
Some upgrades can be done before referendum but will not be
eligible for grant money, for example, steel tanks, cesspool
removal on a non-waterfront site, or conventional septic system
installation. The ATs permitting program the DEP has in place right
now is designed for businesses, not houses. Under the WWMD you will
not have the requirements DEP will look for. There is a delegation
process going forward by which DEP will give the authority to the
What types of AT systems are available? For information on ATS
visit www.nsf.org. An approved list of ATS has yet to be determined.
Will the property owner have choices over the type of system to be
installed? Yes, among the approved selection. If you want to do
something else, then submit a proposal (prepared at 'your cost),
and we'll determine if it's acceptable. However, the buying power
of the town is a lot more efficient, and the State Clean Water Fund
grants and loans are only available through the town.
What kind of maintenance is required on an AT system and what is
its longevity? AT systems require cleaning filters, rotating and
replacement of pumps, and removal of media in some cases. Similar
to conventional septic systems, an ATS should last 20-30 years.
Who will do maintenance on ATsystems? Qualified maintenance
providers. Costs are estimated to be about $600 - $800 per year.
Does it matter if the house is seasonal or year-round? No. Use is
not one of the criteria for the Upgrade Program.
Do waterfront lots require an AT system? Yes, if within the WWMD.
Do the ATsystems have any odor? No, not if working properly.
Does an AT system require a new leaching system? If it does not
meet the leaching-system guidelines, yes.
How much leaching do you need? Leaching-field size for a
conventional septic system is determined by the number of bedrooms;
about 300 - 1800 sq. ft. (in consideration of side slopes and
grading). It can be as small as 300 sq. ft. for a 3-bedroom home.
What if you don't have a large enough lot to accommodate the AT
leaching system? AT leaching systems can be very compact compared
to conventional leaching fields, and there are many options for
compact leaching systems and how they can be sited. What is best
for your site will be determined during the Research Phase of the
program on a lot-by-lot basis by a qualified engineer.
Do the mechanical systems require electricity? Yes.
Does the pump run continuously? No. A programmable
timer operates the equipment based on need, then shuts it off.
What happens during a power failure? The system stops. AT systems
have a built-in capacity to provide short-term storage for later
Do they have to be used continually or can they be used
seasonally? Some can be stopped and started. They require a little
time to ramp up when restarted. There are a number of AT systems
suited to seasonal use.
What happens if an AT system does not meet discharge requirements?
AT system designs that will be chosen wifl have demonstrated
ability to meet discharge requirements when installed and operated
properly. Many will have been certified by a testing organization
like the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). An ATS will have
alarms monitored by the town. If a system malfunctions, the
homeowner will be notified so that a service call can be initiated.
Some components of a system may be warranteed by the manufacturer.
What is considered an undersized septic tank? The current Public
Health Code requires a 1,000-gallon tank for 2 or 3 bedrooms; a
1250-gallon for 4 bedrooms; and a 1500-gallon for 5 bedrooms. The
proposed upgrade standards also require a 2-compartment tank
because these provide better separation and treatment
than single-compartment tanks. Houses constructed in the 1950s
and 1960s generally have 750-gallon tanks for a 2-bedroom house
and 900-gallon tanks for a 3-bedroom house - most of these are
How will properties in the WWMD be tested? The properties will be
subject to evaluation during the Research Phase. Paraphrased from
section 7.2.1 of the Wastewater Facilities Plan: "The research,
which will include a review of Town records, and in most cases,
test pits, will be used to determine if the existing septic systems
meet the requirements of the Upgrade Program Standards." If not,
the project engineer will determine what is needed to meet them.
The homeowner will be notified in writing of what upgrades need to
My septic system was recently installed; is there an exemption
from upgrade? Whether or not a property meets the requirements will
be determined case-by-case, but more recently installed septic
systems are more likely to be in compliance. The standards in the
last five-years are closer to what is required today than what was
put in fifty years ago. You should have less to do, if anything, if
your septic system was recently installed. However, if you have a
waterfront lot, even if the system was put in last year, it is not
likely an AT system. The Health Department was not requiring AT
systems in anticipation of the new program. That will not happen
until the ordinance is in place.
Why is dry-well removal and replacement with new leaching system
mandatory? Leaching chambers over 4 feet in depth will not be
allowed as part of the WWMD upgrades. Most dry wells are 7 or 8
feet in depth; therefore, they would not be allowed in the WWMD.
COMPARISON OF WASTEWATER TREATMENT ALTERNATIVES
|TREATMENT PLANT AND SEWERS
||ONSITE WASTEWATER TREAMENT
|The $71 million estimate does not include the land
||$45 million estimate
|Not consistent with Sewer Avoidance Policy and Plan of
Conservation and Development
||Supports Sewer Avoidance Policy and is
consistent with Town Plan of Conservation and Development
|Every property in the service area would be requited to hook up
||Only properties in WWMD will need to upgrade, if they
are not already compliant.
|Would serve approximately 2500 equivalent dwelling units
||Would include approximately 1900 equivalent dwelling units.
|Sewer system estimated to cost $28,000 per dwelling, before grants
||Upgrade estimates range from $0 to $28000, before grants
|Eligible for 25% grants from DEP Clean Water Fund, with low
interest loans available
||50% of program costs shared (25% Clean Water Fund grants and
25% from Town) with low interest loans available
|Majority of sewer capital cost after grants would be paid by
sewer benefit assessments. Town payments from non-users are also likely.
||Part of Town's contribution to upgrade costs will be site
investigations, upgrade designs, administration, and monitoring.
|Only those connected to the plant will pay costs to Operate the
plant; approximately $500 per year.
||Yearly Operation & Maintenance approximately $50 for
conventional or $600 - $800 for alternative treatment system
|Although effective in focus areas, effluent discharge into the
CT River may affect sensitive areas
||Less enviromnental impact (in general) and to Connecticut River
|Water is diverted from property locations to the CT River (e.g.
from Oyster River to CT River)
||Treated effluent from on-site systems recharges local groundwater.
|Potential for further development along the sewer routes
||The DWMP is less likely to support increased density in focus
areas and commercial corridors
|Sewer construction more likely to take place year-round
||The Town and CT DEP have agreed that construction need not take
place in the summer.
|Moderate to severe disruption to streets
||Limited disruption to streets
|Temporary noise and dust associated with installation of sewer pipes
||Limited and temporary noise and dust, confined to small locales
|Siting and permitting for a treatment plant on property near the
CT River will be a challenge. Some taking of land may be necessary
||No taking of land expected.
What issues will be on the town-wide referendum? The referendum
will include a vote on the Ordinance for Management of On-site
Sewage & Disposal Systems establishing the WWMD and approval of
associated funding to implement the program.
Who will be eligible to vote at the referendum? You are eligible
to vote at a town meeting if you are a property owner; individually
or collectively, of a property assessed at more than $1000. You can
vote at a town meeting on any ordinance or financial issue.
Will absentee ballots be allowed? Yes.
How will I be notified about the referendum? Public notice printed
in local papers, broadcasts, postings, and direct mail.
Will the public hearing take place in the summer? The WPCA
scheduled meetings for every neighborhood based on when residents
are available. They began in January 2009. Presentations are being
given to local boards and organizations. We're dedicated to
providing the very best and latest information. The public hearing
for the facilities plan will be in June, 2009 and the Town Meeting
in July, 2009.
What happens if the referendum establishing the WWMD is voted
down? If the town fails to pass the ordinance, DEP can take the
town back to Court or seek other enforcement actions.
This is the most undesirable outcome. It may cause the town to
lose autonomy, the town's bond rating to become jeopardized, and
DEP to seek construction of a central treatment plant with sewers.
Does a homeowner have any recourse if the information on their
specific property is incorrect? Yes. In the WWMD ordinance there is
an appeal process. When a determination is made that your lot is
not code compliant or requires an ATS, you will be issued an order
and have an opportunity to appeal that order. We will work with
each homeowner to avoid surprises.