Old Lyme WPCA votes to consider New London option for water treatment

Old Lyme - Faced with a decision on how to handle the state's response to a wastewater management study, the Water Pollution Control Authority voted Tuesday to explore creating a centralized, town-managed pump station to send wastewater from the town's shoreline neighborhoods to New London.

The decision to pursue this path, rather than a local wastewater treatment, came after a lengthy discussion among WPCA members about how to proceed in light of comments from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

A town-commissioned feasibility study has been exploring local and regional options to treat wastewater, particularly along its dense shoreline area. Two beach associations - Old Lyme Shores and Old Colony Beach - are under state orders to connect to sewers by 2016. Another one, Miami Beach, is not under a state order but is exploring the option of connecting to sewers.

But in an April 7 letter, the DEEP raised issues with the study, which the town had submitted in December, and called testing done behind the former Cherrystones driving range on Route 156 "inconclusive" and too close to wells.

The DEEP requested two private meetings with town officials in April and May to discuss the issues, according to WPCA Chairman Kurt Zemba. DEEP said Old Lyme should conduct more tests to determine whether a local solution was viable, he said.

The WPCA's attorney, Andrew Lord, called the response from the DEEP a "red light" for a local option.

Town officials expressed disappointment Tuesday and questioned why DEEP officials didn't communicate the issues earlier.

On Tuesday, the WPCA considered four options: testing additional sites for local treatment; pursuing local options for beach communities not currently under a state order, including Sound View; building one centralized pumping station for the shoreline areas that would move wastewater to New London; or taking no action.

The town-managed pump station could connect to the shoreline communities through a centralized pipe along Route 156.

WPCA members said the testing of additional sites would cost $250,000 to $500,000 more, with no guarantee that the DEEP would accept the findings. In addition, pursuing a local option would also not be cost-effective if the beach communities of Old Lyme Shores, Old Colony Beach and Miami Beach opted out, they said.

The WPCA voted 5 to 3 Tuesday to draft a timeline of the steps needed to build a town-managed centralized facility and communicate with the DEEP, beach communities, New London, Waterford and East Lyme.

The DEEP said Wednesday that its role is to review plans as part of a regulatory process, rather than recommend specific options.

"The next step is we need to meet with all parties to discuss how to proceed forward in a coordinated manner," said Dennis Greci, a supervising engineer for the DEEP.

Remaining funds set aside for the study could be used to explore the option for a town-managed facility, Zemba said. The funds to maintain the actual facility could come from special assessments and user fees.

If the town goes down this path, the town's WPCA could manage the facility, said First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsynder in a phone interview Wednesday, but the details would be worked out through engineering and legal advice.

k.drelich@theday.com

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