Old Lyme residents learn about septic systems

Old Lyme - More than 50 residents listened to an overview Monday of a proposed study that would determine the viability of community septic systems and other wastewater treatment options for shoreline neighborhoods.

Town officials are seeking to undertake a feasibility study, conducted by Woodard & Curran of Cheshire, and in conjunction with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, to consider solutions and determine the capacity of sites to handle wastewater. It would also assess the shoreline's wastewater requirements.

The Old Lyme Shores Beach Association and Old Colony Beach Association have done environmental studies that show pollution stemming from on-site septic tanks on individual lots. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has ordered the two beach communities to connect to sewers by 2016.

At Monday's forum, resident Linda Ciarelli-Scanlon wondered what say residents would have over a final wastewater project, which is a big issue for the town. If it goes down that route, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said she suspects that the project could be voted on at a referendum.

The $185,000 study, except the $18,000 funds for an application, is eligible for 55 percent reimbursement from the Federal Clean Water Act.

Reemsnyder has testified in support of a Senate Bill 352, which is intended to allow water pollution control authorities to seek easements to go onto private property to operate or maintain septic systems owned by a town or utility.

The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, is in the Public Health Committee. The wording of the bill is expected to be revised to make it more specific.

Reemsnyder said a proposed local wastewater management system's benefits include upholding the town's sewer avoidance policy and allowing the small town to control its own costs and decisions. The local solution wouldn't be "prone to future capital expenses" if, for example, the New London wastewater facility has to expand, she explained.

She said the town has no intention of blocking beach associations' ability to connect to sewers, but hoped their interests might ultimately dovetail and that they could work together. If not, she said there are other areas along the shoreline that could use alternatives.

Frank Noe, a co-chairman of the Old Colony Beach WPCA and a Hartford Avenue property owner, raised several questions during the presentation. At the end of the meeting, he said he was open to alternatives that would help residents use their properties.

"Let's make Old Lyme a friendly place and have a good septic-sewer community system," he said.

A second presentation will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at Town Hall. Residents can vote on funding the study at a special town meeting at 7:30 p.m. April 9 at the middle school auditorium.

k.drelich@theday.com

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