OSWPCA: Sunshine / Summer 2009 - WPCA updates WWMD "Sewer Avoidance Initiative" prior to 29Jul09 Special Town Meeting and 11Aug09 Referendum

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Old Saybrook Water Pollution Control Authority

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 letter.

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 on website.

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 admin@oswpca.org. We welcome you to attend any of the public education meetings and our WPCA meetings.


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 coffers.

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 statute.

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 Saybrook ...

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 Thompson.

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.


Saybrook Acres Chalker Beach
Saybrook Point GROUP 5
Oyster River East Cornfield Point
Plum Bank Saybrook Manor
Great Hammock Beach Cornfield Park
Indiantown Ingham Hill
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 specials!
   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 ....

Groundwater Sampling

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 groundwater.

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 groundwater.

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 following:

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 sewered areas.

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 originally.

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 2010-2017.

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 the future.

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.

Area Selection

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 the future.

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 administering it.

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 town.

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 treatment.

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 single-compartment tanks.

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 be done.

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.

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.