Stonington WPCA: It’s time to upgrade water treatment facilities

The New London Day • 10/25/2010

Stonington taxpayers will be asked Tuesday at a special referendum to approve upgrades to the town’s three water pollution treatment plants. The Stonington Water Pollution Control Authority urges a ‘yes’ vote on this very important project.

The time for these upgrades truly is now. The Mystic facility has operated for nearly 40 years using a design and equipment intended for 20 years. The current practice of diverting flow from Mystic to Stonington borough is not efficient. One way or another, significant expenditures will be required to keep the facility operational in the years to come. The WPCA’s position is that well-planned upgrades will improve water quality, operate efficiently and be less costly over the long run.

The town operates three aging sewer plants. This project is designed to substantially upgrade Mystic, the oldest facility, and to modernize high-priority treatment functions at the borough and Pawcatuck plants. The Mystic plant will be upgraded with state-of-the-art environmental control systems that will meet anticipated Enrironmental Protection Agency and Department of Environmental Protection requirements for decades to come. While the WPCA has insisted on technology that delivers environmental quality for Stonington’s harbors and rivers, it has been as equally sensitive to cost control and utilization of existing infrastructure and plant footprints.

Three are better than one

As the result of a consent order issued to the Mystic plant more than 10 years ago, the WPCA was required to develop and submit a comprehensive infrastructure facilities plan to the DEP. During the public hearing process, townspeople have strongly indicated a preference to sustain the three plants as opposed to concepts that would combine them.

After a careful investigation of technology options, the WPCA commissioned a pilot study for the chosen technology at Mystic. It was enormously successful. We will be taking advantage of a new treatment technology that is both affordable to install and far more economical to operate going forward than all of the competing technologies. It allowed us to stay within our existing tank and land size, which reduced the projected expenses. Processes in Stonington borough and in Pawcatuck will benefit from improved air-control systems and ultraviolet disinfection in lieu of chlorination.

The economic conditions for this project happening now could not be better. The cost of the entire project is $18.3 million, and it will be bonded over an ordinary term of 20 years. The town’s bonded indebtedness is declining, and as a consequence this new initiative will not increase property taxes.

Borrowing rates are at an all-time low. The climate for controlling construction prices is uniquely advantageous, because there is in the economy today very competitive bidding with declining contractor prices. The merger of these favorable conditions makes today opportune for Stonington.

This project has been carefully examined and approved by the town’s Board of Finance, Board of Selectmen and Planning and Zoning Commission, and it also has the support of CUSH (Clean Up Stonington Harbors), which was formed to promote the interests in the quality of the waters in and around Stonington.

Please take the time on Tuesday to vote for the future of our community’s environment.

Editor’s note: The authors are members of the Stonington Water Pollution Control Authority. They submitted this on behalf of themselves and fellow WPCA members Lynn Young and Richard Cody.