Planned bond for work doubles

NAUGATUCK — The borough’s proposed bond package increased by $6 million due to more extensive upgrades needed at the wastewater treatment plant.

On Tuesday the Board of Finance and Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted to increase the amount voters will be asked to approve for a bond resolution to do the first phase of federally-mandated work at the plant.

Voters will now be asked to approve $12.4 million for the upgrades.

“This is the funding we need to upgrade the emission control of the sludge incinerator at the treatment plant as well as the funding needed to complete the facilities planning for the permit required,” Public Works Director James Stewart said.

Originally the cost was estimated at $6 million and that was just for the basic emissions upgrade, he said.

“Upon further investigation we determined that additional upgrades to the plant associated with the incinerator were either at the end of their useful life or would not work with the new system,” Stewart said.

The upgrades are required to meet federal mandates. The borough has to complete the upgrades within five years. The total cost is expected to be about $85 million, with Naugatuck’s share coming in at $55 million. Middlebury and Oxford, which use the system, will also contribute to the cost of the work. The borough also expects to receive some grant funding for the project.

Finance Board member Dan Sheridan asked if all the upgrades are necessary.

“Is this all required mandatory work that has to be done,” Sheridan asked. “So we’re not just adding on ‘nice-to-haves,’ but it’s stuff we actually need?”

Stewart said the only other option would be to turn the incinerator off, which means the borough would have to ship its waste to another municipality.

According to a document Stewart provided, it would cost the borough $27 million more over the next eight years to turn the incinerator off than to make the necessary upgrades. This includes the $1 million penalty for canceling the contract with Veolia Water North America, which operates the plant, and the loss of the $3 million a year in rent that Veolia pays the borough.

The first phase of the project is for upgrades to the sewage sludge emissions process. Much of the money would go toward an emission control device on the exhaust and toward a new, larger air blower to help push clean air through the new exhaust system. Another $4 million will go toward replacing a wet odor control scrubber — the old one is about 35 years old and is past its life span, Stewart said.

The majority of the rest the money that Naugatuck will likely set aside over the next five years is to reduce the amount of phosphorous discharge from the plant. New EPA regulations state they must now be comparable to drinking water. Phosphorous is found in fertilizer, some laundry detergents and in dishwashing detergents. Too much phosphorous can trigger algae blooms, reducing the clarity of water.

In extreme cases, this can lead to depletion of oxygen and fish kills. Nutrient enrichment from nitrogen and phosphorous is one of the most pressing water quality issues in the nation, according to the EPA.

The bond question will be put on the ballot in November with several other projects. In addition to the upgrades, the projects include $5 million for improvements to roads, bridges and infrastructure, $1 million to repair and renovate Hop Brook Pool and $775,000 to move the recycling center off of Rubber Avenue.

Each item will be asked as a separate question on the ballot.

Burgess Alex Olbrys asked if there was a backup plan if the upgrades at the treatment plant are voted down.

“I’m a little uncomfortable putting this to referendum because if it doesn’t pass we still have to do it. I don’t see any way around it,” Olbrys said.

Mayor Robert Mezzo said the state would force the borough to do the upgrades anyway.

“What’s likely to happen at that point is we’re going to get some notice of violation from the state if we want to run our incinerator,” Mezzo said. “At that point our requirement to send a bond to referendum goes away and we’re forced to do it anyway. We are doing this through the proper channels with our bond council but there is really no way to avoid paying for this upgrade.”

The Republican American contributed to this article.

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