NAUGATUCK — An aging sewer system has led to an uptick in emergency repairs needed over recent years.
“We are attributing the damage to the cold winter that happened a few years ago. It was a very cold winter and it broke a lot of shallow pipes,” Public Works Director James Stewart told the Board of Mayor and Burgesses this month.
The board approved a request to transfer $135,000 from the account for fees for Veolia North America, the company that runs the borough’s wastewater treatment plant, to the reserve fund for sanitary sewer repairs and rehab. The transfer will have to be approved by the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses.
Stewart said the money in the reserve fund is used exclusively for emergency repairs.
The borough budgets about $115,000 each year for emergency sewer repairs as part of the contract with Veolia, Stewart said. He said the borough has been billed approximately $210,000 for sewer repairs this year. Due to two recent emergencies, he said, that is likely to go up to $230,000.
“These are emergencies. There are pipes leaking into ponds, backups into peoples’ basements, broken pipes leaking, fumes going into houses, collapsed manholes,” Stewart said.
Stewart said the most recent two leaks, which occurred on Maple Hill Road, came from a broken mainline pipe and caused sewage to leak onto the street.
“So we can’t ignore this and we can’t put them off. I’m just glad we have the money in the budget to cover this,” Stewart said.
Burgess Rocky Vitale asked if the borough really had that much trouble with sewer lines collapsing.
Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said Naugatuck has one of the oldest sewer systems in the state.
Stewart said over the past few years the number of emergency repairs needed has increased. He added Veolia is doing a good job of flushing sewage pipes, which helps with the reduction of backups, but also identifies pipes that are in need of immediate attention.
“We are finding a lot of badly broken pipes. They are going and repairing those that absolutely have to be done,” Stewart said.
Stewart said the borough is also facing a number of sewer line upgrades that are not at an emergency level yet.
“We also have another $120,000 that I wouldn’t call emergencies but are things we would do if we had the money. Half of those we are probably going to have to do next year,” Stewart said.
Vitale asked if the borough should have a rehabilitation and replacement plan in place for the sewer pipes.
“It doesn’t make sense to repair a broken pipe here and, a couple months later, repair one 40 feet away and dig up the road again,” Vitale said.
Hess said the borough does have a plan, but it hasn’t been in place for long enough to fix all the lines.
“Until 2001, when we did the contract with Veolia, there was very little, if any, maintenance of the sewer line. So, built into that contract was a program to start dealing with the issues. There is a mandatory amount we have to spend each year. And we do,” Hess said.
While the pipes aren’t perfect, Hess said, they are better than they were before the plan was put into place.
“Things were horrible. They are better but they are not perfect. We have a way to go. We have a plan, but we don’t have as much money to fund it as we’d like. So we try and do it in a responsible way,” Hess said.
When Veolia’s contract with the borough runs out in 2022, Stewart said, the borough is planning to bond for repairs to the plant and sewer lines. He said officials are working to develop an estimate of how much it would cost to bring the sewer lines to good working condition.