Old Lyme officials outline plans, costs to connect beach communities to sewers

Old Lyme - The Sound View Beach neighborhood one day likely will feature a bike lane, picnic area, permanent restrooms and an accompanying sewage connection.

Town officials said Wednesday they are aiming to coordinate the Sound View revitalization project with a plan to connect certain beach communities to a regional sewage system.

They spoke at a Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce business breakfast at the Shoreline Community Center that was attended by more than 20 business owners, political candidates and town and beach association representatives.

The Sound View improvement project calls for a bike path to run from Hartford Avenue, along Route 156, up to the Raymond E. Baldwin Bridge. A picnic area with permanent restrooms and parking spaces would replace the town-owned parking lot near the beach.

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder likened Sound View, an area developed in 1892 with a public beach, to the town's "South Main Street."

She said the revitalization project would attract more walkers and bicyclists to the neighborhood, which is known for having limited parking, thereby freeing up parking spaces while boosting foot traffic to local businesses.

"We also want people to be aware of the gem that we have at the end of the road - our beach - which is really just lovely, and we want our residents to use it as much as day-trippers and people from other communities," Reemsnyder added.

A federal transportation grant that the town has secured will fund 80 percent of the project's total cost. This spring, residents approved spending up to $148,500 for the design phase; costs for the construction phase will be presented to residents in the future for separate approval.

An estimated timetable calls for construction to begin in September 2015 and end that December.

After Reemsnyder updated attendees on Sound View, Water Pollution and Control Authority Chairman Kurt Zemba outlined the steps leading to the WPCA's decision to pursue a regional wastewater option rather than a local solution.

"I think this is something we're going to be forced to do, and by getting in front of it, we're able to tie this together in a very efficient way," he said.

Under the plan, a town-managed pumping station would send wastewater through East Lyme and Waterford to the New London treatment plant.

Zemba said a sewer avoidance policy has long been in place, which still works for much of the town. But due to soil types in certain neighborhoods along Long Island Sound, septic systems in those areas aren't adequate, and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has been stepping up its focus on the entire Connecticut shoreline, Zemba said.

The DEEP has ordered two beach associations, Old Lyme Shores Beach Association and Old Colony Beach Club Association, to connect to a sewage treatment plant by 2016. Another beach association, Miami Beach, has been moving forward on plans to hook up to sewers. The DEEP is ready to issue orders covering all the town's shoreline areas, he said.

In response, Old Lyme commissioned a study to analyze two options: connect to sewers or build a local wastewater system in town. While the WPCA preferred a local option, the DEEP's review of the study called for additional testing of local sites. In the face of DEEP's comments, the WPCA found the local option to be too costly.

As it moves forward on plans to connect to the New London sewage system, the town will address the needs of the 10 shoreline neighborhoods covered in the original study in order of priority. Depending on soil types and density, some areas may not require a change.

"Sound View is our No. 1 priority," Zemba said.

The town would then proceed with Hawk's Nest and other neighborhoods, and also may tie the homes in the White Sand Beach Association - over which the town has jurisdiction since the association does not have its own WPCA - to the sewer system.

"It will give flexibility to the owners of properties along the shoreline and in Sound View to improve their homes," said Zemba about the project. "It will clean up the environment, it will clean up our beaches, and we will have a very clean, usable Long Island Sound and a wonderful beach."

If all approvals are secured and the project moves on as planned, the town anticipates construction on the sewage pump station could begin next year, with the system working by 2016. Construction of sewage pipes could stretch into 2017 for some neighborhoods.

The project is expected to cost about $55 million. But Zemba said he anticipates other sources of funding will bring the town's portion to under $30 million. If residents approve the project, the town will front the cost of the system through short-term financing and bonding, but would recoup the investment through sewer assessments and user fees.

k.drelich@theday.com

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