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Old Lyme — Emphasizing the need to "move forward," the town began planning Tuesday for adding sewers to its shoreline neighborhoods — a plan that frequently has proved contentious in the town's history.
The Water Pollution Control Authority outlined initial steps for providing sewers through a centralized, town-managed pump station that would help transport wastewater to a New London treatment plant.
The town will meet with Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials and the WPCAs from town beach associations by the end of the month to discuss the idea.
DEEP had ordered two beach associations along the town's densely packed shoreline - Old Colony Beach Associaion and Old Lyme Shores Beach Association - to connect to sewers by June 2016. Miami Beach is also studying connecting to sewer systems.
The decision to take a townwide approach came after a vote at last month's WPCA meeting. The town had undertaken an engineering study that weighed local and regional alternatives for treating wastewater. While the study found it feasible to treat wastewater in town, the DEEP said in its review of the study that testing done on a potential site was "inconclusive" and too close to wells. After weighing options, officials decided last month that pursuing a centralized pump station was the best course of action.
WPCA Chairman Kurt Zemba said Tuesday that DEEP representatives indicated that they could require the entire shoreline to connect to sewers. If other shoreline areas are added, the town likely would approach the DEEP to ask for a deadline extension, so the town could move forward in unison and in a more cost-effective manner.
He said extending sewers to Sound View would be a priority, given the town's renovation project there.
Next steps include confirming funding with the DEEP, meeting with East Lyme, Waterford and New London, and discussing cost sharing among the beach communities, Woodard & Curran engineer Dave Prickett said.
The town would need to fund the initial steps, but ultimately only shoreline users would foot the bill, according to Zemba, through user fees and assessments.
Douglas Whalen, chairman of Old Colony Beach Association thanked the WPCA and First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder and called the steps "a long time coming."
He said some previous officials had ignored the beaches, so they had to form their own WPCAs and commission their own studies. He said there was pollution at the beach that closed the water for swimming for several days last summer.
"We're happy to see the town of Old Lyme is coming together for the beach, but please, we don't want the hammer, we want the olive branch," he said.
Reemsnyder said she always has extended an olive branch, and she defended the previous officials who, she said, were doing their best to follow the town's sewer avoidance ordinance and to try to protect the environment.
She agreed that the message did not always come out the way it should have, but she stressed moving forward as partners.
"We have to work together to make this work," she said.