New London contract provides path for Old Lyme beaches toward sewer lines

New London — The city has approved a $1.45 million contract to treat sewage from three private Old Lyme beach associations that is expected to eventually allow hundreds of shoreline homes to abandon their cesspools and septic systems.

Old Lyme beach association officials say the agreement is another step toward installation of sewer lines to access homes in the popular beach area that has been closely monitored for years by state environmental officials.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has mandated something be done to reduce groundwater pollution and potential for pollutants entering Long Island Sound. The idea of a shared community septic system was considered but ruled out.

The 20-year agreement, approved by the New London City Council and signed by Mayor Michael Passero, is with the Miami Beach Association, Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, Old Colony Beach Association and associated water pollution control authorities. The town of Old Lyme, which oversees Sound View and Hawk’s Nest beach areas, is not part of the contract.

Joe Lanzafame, New London’s director of public utilities, said the agreement provides a steady stream of revenue for the city that will help stabilize sewer rates. It is also a good example of regionalization and will serve to improve the water quality in Long Island Sound.

New London already treats sewage from East Lyme and Waterford. Once the infrastructure in Old Lyme is in place and homes are connected, sewage will run through an existing sewage pipe system.

“The idea is that Old Lyme beaches will create a pump station and network of pipes to connect to East Lyme,” Lanzafame said. “A lot of the infrastructure is already there.”

The $1.45 million associated with the contract is essentially a connection fee, Lanzafame said. The beach associations eventually will pay treatment costs based on the amount of sewage being treated in New London. The current rate is $2.20 per 1,000 gallons of sewage processed but that rate fluctuates. The contract also calls for the beach associations to pay 1.2 percent of annual treatment plant capital costs.

Lanzafame said the contract allows the beach associations to provide up to 120,000 gallons of sewage per day with the right to purchase up to an additional 180,000 gallons per day with added capital expense fees. Beach association officials said they remain confident that the town of Old Lyme eventually will join the effort, help defray overall costs and provide sewer lines to the more than 270 properties in the Sound View area, which is adjacent to beach association properties.

Members of each of the three beach associations already have approved the borrowing of millions of dollars toward their projects, but the town has yet to bring its estimated $7.23 million bonding request to a townwide vote.

Douglas Whalen, chairman of the Old Colony Beach Club Association, said the contract is an important first step. Beach association members approved bonding eight years ago for what is expected to be a $6 million project that includes sewer lines, repaved roads and storm drains. There will be an estimated $36,000-per-household fee to tie in to the system, though that amount could drop if the town gets involved.

The associations still must negotiate a contract with East Lyme before sewage starts flowing through that town.

“The problem is that we know there is pollution happening. Being a beach community, we want a clean Long Island Sound,” Whalen said. “We’re hoping that this whole project is going to go off very soon. This is a very positive thing for the community and a positive thing for Long Island Sound. The three beach communities ... will have cleaner environments for our kids and our grandchildren.”

He said the negotiations for the contract with New London took nearly two years and were “a long time coming.” The installation of sewers is not only an effective way to clean up the beach community but also will allow restaurants and other commercial establishments, barred from any growth because of environmental restrictions, to prosper.

Fees to New London are expected to start by Sept. 1, 2023, or when sewage starts to flow, whichever comes first, though there are extensions available in the event of delays. Whalen said the most current mandate from the state is that the entire project, which will take two years of design and construction, be done by 2023.

Scott Boulanger, chairman of the WPCA of Miami Beach, who also serves on the beach association’s board of governors, said it has been a struggle to get all of the necessary agreements and approvals in place, and applauded the latest contract.

“This is a nice thing to see happen. We hope to get an agreement with Old Lyme soon,” Boulanger said.

Miami Beach Association, with more than 235 members, approved bonding of more than $10 million toward the sewer and associated projects.

“We’ve been on board for quite some time,” he said.

Old Lyme has had a “sewer avoidance program” since the mid-1980s but last year announced that because of a DEEP order was planning a project to connect sewer lines to properties in the Sound View area, which is overseen by the town, with an estimated $26,800 cost per property. The town plans to monitor the Hawk's Nest area.

Old Lyme WPCA Chairman Richard Prendergast said that after researching alternatives over several years, the town recently finished a waste water plan that compares alternatives for the town's sewer area. An environmental impact evaluation that summarizes the waste water plan is nearly finalized and is slated to be published in May for public comment. The feedback then would need to be resolved prior to finalizing the available alternatives and recommended actions.

"With the completion of the (environmental impact evaluation), the town can plan for a referendum sometime in 2018, preferably during the summer months when the residents most impacted by sewers will have the opportunity to vote on the recommended options," he wrote.

Prendergast said the private beach associations and the town of Old Lyme's sewer developments are independent of each other and have different timelines, but it makes sense to find ways to work together. 

"Since the sewer areas are adjacently located, it makes common sense and financial sense to work together where ever possible to share resources, and the town and private beach associations are doing this," he said by email.

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said the plan is for the three beach associations and the town to have separate sewer projects, but with one pump station and one force main.

She said the town officials have had discussions with the beach associations and knew they have been working with New London. While she has not seen the agreement, she said the expectation and hope is that the town could later join the agreement between the beach associations and New London, because the town is working on its own project.

She said they also are trying to finalize the language of the lease agreement for the pump station, which is more than 95 percent done.

"I think we're very close," she said.

Day Staff Writer Kimberly Drelich contributed to this report.

g.smith@theday.com

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