Study to explore regionalizing plants

The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments is hoping a new study will help Valley towns save money when it comes to treating wastewater.

The NVCOG received a $1.35 million state grant in June to conduct a study on consolidating the wastewater facilities in the Ansonia, Derby, Seymour, Beacon Falls, and Naugatuck, according to a press release issued by Gov. Dannel Malloys office.

NVCOG Executive Director Rick Dunne said the Valley currently has too many treatment plants.

“When [the towns] built these they were seen as job creators and economic drivers. We now have too many plants when fewer would have been more efficient,” Dunne said.

Dunne said many of the plants are now facing significant and expensive upgrades.

“We have plants that are facing somewhere in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars. That’s not the infrastructure around town, just at the plants. It’s a huge amount of money,” Dunne said.

That is where the study comes into play.

“What we are going to look at is if there is a way to have a higher level of service at a lower cost by working cooperatively,” Dunne said.

Dunne said the study will look at the inflow and infiltration of each of the plants.

“Every system, no matter how good, has a certain amount of clean water processed as sewage,” Dunne said.

Dunne said this clean water comes in from leaking pipes in a municipality or the cross connection of the pipes that allow rain water to seep into the system.

Clean water is problematic because it offsets the amount of inflow the plant can process, Dunne said.

“There is a fair amount of capacity in plants not available for sanity wastewater because we are processing clean water. A plant that processes 10 million gallons, but has 3 million gallon of infiltration when it rains, can’t plan for its full 10 million gallons. It is capacity that is lost,” Dunne said.

The study will also take into account the upgrades needed to bring the plants in compliance with current federal and state regulations on reducing pollutants emitted by the plants, Dunne said.

However, even if a treatment plant receives upgrades to bring it into compliance, it doesn’t mean the study will recommend that plant remains open.

“We have to look beyond their immediate needs. We have to look at how do we create the most efficient system for this treatment process,” Dunne said.

Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess, who made the original motion that the council of governments should seek the funding for the study, said he is in complete support of looking into regionalization.

“Basically there are opportunities in the future for regionalization of wastewater facilities that should be analyzed and pursued by towns along the Naugatuck River,” Hess said.

Naugatuck currently has six years left in its contract with Veolia North America, the private company that runs the wastewater treatment plant, Hess said. He expects the study and any subsequent decision to take until the contract with Veolia expires.

In the meantime, the borough has begun funding upgrades to the plant’s incinerator and treatment processes to bring it in compliance with the mandates.

Beacon Falls First Selectman Christopher Bielik said the town is “very excited” about the study and the possibility of regionalization. He said the town would be foolish not to participate in a study and look into the possibilities of performing more efficiently.

Beacon Falls’ treatment plant is currently purchasing nitrogen credits and chemically treating its wastewater for phosphorous to remain within mandated levels.

“Standing alone the way we are seems like it is the least efficient way to leverage a greater amount of dollars and efficiently run the plant. I will be very anxious to participate in this study to get us to an alternative solution,” Bielik said.

Dunne said there is no timeline for when the study will be finished. The preliminary work is expected to begin at the end of summer or early fall.

Once the study has been finished and the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments has the information, it will make recommendations on how to move forward, Dunne said.

“We don’t want to prejudge outcome. I don’t know if that outcome means a regional system, a system where towns own facilities but share services on a peer-to-peer basis, or it could mean status quo,” Dunne said.