CHESTER – A debate in this small town centers on how to solve problems with the village center sewage system.
Chester First Citizens Group Chairman Isaac Ruiz proposes an $85,000 but while the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority, WPCAA, is proposing would cost as much as $2.5 million.
“The seven-figure solution is completely unacceptable to us, we will fight it every step of the way,” Ruiz said, adding the cost will be paid for by both users of the system and taxpayers.
First Selectman Tom Marsh is optimistic that grant and loan funding could be available from the DEP’s Clean Water Fund and a Small Town Economic Assistance Program.
Ruiz’s proposed $85,000 solution involves reinstalling Soil Air technology which used to exist underneath the town’s village center reducing the capacity of its system by one third.
The technology allows the soil to receive oxygen resulting in the ability of microbes to process materials in the system, Ruiz said.
While the town had a contract with the company it expired, Ruiz said, and the town failed to act until one year after the expiration.
The town decided against reinstalling Soil Air after DEP officials claimed it did not address the hydraulic factor or the water quality issue.
Bill Hogan, Engineer of Water Pollution Control at the DEP, said the Soil Air technology “was not sufficient to handle current capacity needs” and that Chester needs to either have “additional subsurface or connect to Deep River (Waste Treatment Facility).”
Ruiz believes Soil Air could “easily double flow to the system and we wouldn’t have to wait for years.”
In a written statement from the WPCA, the agency claims the Soil Air technology was installed in September 2004 and did relieve the hydraulic load on the system, reduce pump out frequency, and reduce the concentration of contaminants of concern.
Neighbors of the system complained in July 2005 about septic odors, according to the WPCA, and while the WPCA implemented actions designed to reduce these odors, the odors persisted in September 2005.
The WPCA requested the system to be turned off at this time while a plan of action was being prepared.
“When the odor complaints ceased, the action items were not implemented,” the release stated, adding that in June 2006, there was a “breakout of effluent to the surface.”
The WPCA stated they have been actively monitoring the system to prevent future problems.
According to the WPCA, “It has become apparent that the Maple Street SSDS does not meet needs of the Town, let alone its future needs. The WPCA has acknowledged this and intends to abandon the Maple Street SSDS in favor of the two remaining alternatives that the DEP has indicated it will permit.”
While WPCA’s engineer, Nathan L. Jacobsen and Associates, studied five alternative sewage disposal solutions, the recommended alternative “involves expansion of the current sewer system to include homes and businesses in the immediate area with failing or inadequate systems, and properties where septic repair or installation would likely not comply with the current Public Health Code.”
Properties along the sewer pipes path are proposed to change from a residential zone to a commercial zone, Ruiz said, adding the installation of the sewer pipe will lead the village center to become highly develop and no longer feature the character it currently has.
The WPCA’s proposal is “a divide and conquer strategy that leaves the additional 143 building owners convicted of polluting state waters, even though they’re currently fully compliant with the public health code,” Ruiz said.
First Selectman Tom Marsh said DEP officials told him if the sewer pipe was installed, not everyone on the path would be required to hook into the pipe.
Hogan claims the town’s WPCA would have to make a motion that would allow residents living along the pipe’s path to not be required to hook into the system.
Such a motion has not been made but Hogan believes if it is, the possibility for the WPCA to change its decision and require all residents along the pipe’s path to hook in is very small.
Ruiz fears the DEP could require homeowners to hook into the pipe in the future.
If a homeowner’s septic tank or leeching fields fail, Hogan said, the DEP would require that property owner to hook into the sewer pipe and that owner would not have the option to fix their septic tank.
Ruiz warns residents that Deep River could increase costs to Chester to hook into their facility if Deep River continually expands the system within their town.
Hogan said hooking into the Deep River system would be a “permanent fix to the problem.”
Chester residents are expected to vote on the issue regarding hooking in with Deep River sometime in early 2007.