By Lindsay Carey
Some residents expressed concern that issues at the sewer treatment plant may not being handled properly at the Town Council meeting on Monday, despite the recent odor problem being corrected.
There was some backlash when Town Council Vice Chairman Cheryl Lounsbury, who is on the Sewer Committee, acknowledged the sewer staff for their immediate response in the last few weeks to the odor complaints. Lounsbury, along with other Town Council members, commended them for working long hours, weekends and nights to determine the cause of the problem and get it under control.
However, one member of the council was less enthused. Town Council member John Barry said that he would like to the sewer staff to be held more accountable since this is the second year that the odor has become unbearable for residents.
“I’m concerned that this is not the first time this has happened and everyone is quick to praise everyone at the sewer plant,” said Barry. “I think there has to be responsibility with town staff at the sewer plant. This should never have occurred again.”
Barry questioned whether the sewer staff is really fixing the problem or if another problem at the plant can be expected again.
Lounsbury said that the council’s responsibility to care of the treatment plant and that the employees should be not to blame.
“Both this council and previous councils, both republican and democratic controlled councils, over the years have ignored the problems in the sewer treatment plant, have ignored the updates that needed to be done, have ignored the failed equipment in the sewer treatment plant,” said Lounsbury. “Our staff has been making that plant go with band aids. No money was given to help. No training was given to help.”
Lounsbury explained that the only way to guarantee for the problem does not occur again is for the plant to get some funding, which is on the ballot for Nov. 4.
“A lot of our equipment is offline, our digesters are not working and so we’d like to do some real work with the plant which needs it tremendously,” said Lounsbury.
Resident John Campbell criticized one of the referendum questions that requested $5,200,000 for sludge thickening and odor control.
Campbell said he has worked in sewer facilities in the past and feels that odor is not a good enough reason to justify spending that much money. He said that the wording should have included specifically what the money would be spent on.
He also recalled the council requesting money in the past for the sewer treatment plant. Based on the fact that the town is still having issues with the plant, Campbell suggested that the town get the state involved or hire someone to handle the facility because he feels the Town Council has managed it inadequately.
“You said tonight you take responsibility for the sewer treatment plant, well I think it’s time you passed the baton to someone else,” said Campbell. “You can’t run the sewer treatment plant. The Town Council cannot do the job.”
Resident James Gura agreed with both Barry and Campbell. Similar to Barry, Gura explained that he felt that the sewer staff be held partially responsible for the condition of the plant.
Gura said that the digesters failed from lack of maintenance from not only the Council, but the treatment plant employees.
“You can’t maintain things if you don’t have the money behind you to do it,” responded Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio.
However, like Campbell, Gura recalled a time that cost the town $1 million to fix contaminated soil problems due to the way sludge was handled.
Though Gura agreed that the plant is old, he felt that the money hasn’t been used efficiently in the past.
“You better look at yourselves, because we did give money,” said Gura. “We gave a lot of money.”
Lounsbury shared her opinion that everyone in town should show concern for the sewer treatment plant, because it not only affects a neighborhood, but also the schools, police department, fire department, library, Calendar House, and other municipal buildings that everyone in town uses.
She also noted that this problem could potentially affect economic development.
“What companies are going to come into town if we don’t have a state of the art sewer system and then how are we going to get relief from our residential tax base without these companies coming into town?” said Lounsbury. “This a very complex problem that has been let go year after year, after year.”
By Lindsay Carey