By TAYLOR HARTZ
This November, it will be up to Southington residents to decide whether or not the town should spend $57 million on improvements to the Southington Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF).
If residents vote “yes,” the facility will receive a new phosphorus treatment facility, along with plant and infrastructure updates. In addition, covers will be installed in existing areas to reduce odors, and the ultra-violet disinfection equipment will be moved out of the flood plain.
“We’re replacing an obsolete facility,” said Town Manager Garry Brumback. “We’re taking advantage of current technology, and we’re going to become much more effective and efficient.”
On June 13, the Town Council voted to approve a $57.1 million bond ordinance, but Brumback said the proposed plan will make the town eligible for a state grant of $17 million. The grant would cut down 30 percent of the cost to taxpayers. The proposed facility updates, which will appear on the ballot as a referendum item this fall, will have a net cost to the town of about $39 million.
If the town votes “no,” it could end up costing taxpayers a great deal in fines, fees, and loss of state grants. In 2022, new state regulations will go into effect, requiring new standards for phosphorus levels, and the current project plans are on target to meet the proposed regulations.
As long as all state requirements are met, the DEEP grants permits for treating wastewater. That means that if the referendum passes, Southington will receive a partial grant from the state to cover $17 million of the update costs.
If they do not meet these deadlines, the town may lose the grant, along with a low interest Clean Water Fund loan. The town could also face fines of up to $37,500 per day in penalties from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEEP.)That adds up to $13.6 million in fines each year.
According Brumback, getting started on these updates will improve the overall quality of the town, as well as maintaining compliance with upcoming state regulations.
“This referendum that you will see in November is a make-or-break for our community,” the town manager said.
At a meeting of the Town Council on July 11, the Sewer Committee, chaired by Councilor Ed Pockock III, debuted a video guide to their proposed plans, which will include meeting permit requirements, increasing reliability and efficiency, and reducing odors.
(This video can be viewed in the live stream of the July 11 Town Council meeting, by visiting www.southington.org/content/17214/19115/default.aspx)
In addition to complying with state regulations, Water Pollution Control Superintendent Mike Finoia said that odor control is a major concern due to the facility’s proximity, at 999 Meriden Waterbury Tpk., to residential properties, municipal sports fields, and the drive-in.
“We have to do the best we can by the citizens of Southington to make sure we keep down these odors,” said Finoia. The superintendent detailed the town’s plans to add lids to aerated grit areas at the treatment plant, cover primary clarifiers, and to treat odorous air with activated carbon.
With the exception of adding a de-nitrification facility, mandated by the state in 2008, it has been quite a while since the 1958 facility received updated equipment or technology. The infrastructure of the facility has been in place for over six decades, and most of the equipment is more than 30-years-old.
Finoia compared the current facility to an old car. He said that repairs to the facility, including electrical, steel, and concrete, are getting increasingly difficult and expensive as older parts become harder to find.
“Technology has increased substantially, as have the requirements from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEEP),” said Brumback, who described the project as a completely overhaul of the existing facility.
“This is an extraordinary project and it really is for the benefit of our entire community,” said Brumback.
Residents can expect to see a referendum item on the $57.1 million project on the ballot in November.