Borough hopes plan eases mandated burden

Naugatuck's wastewater treatment plant. –RA ARCHIVE
Naugatuck’s wastewater treatment plant. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Faced with having to spend millions of dollars soon to make upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant, borough officials are pinning their hopes on a new plan that will stave off the mandated improvements for now.

New environmental guidelines mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency state that municipalities with wastewater treatment facilities must make millions of dollars in upgrades to mitigate pollutants. The upgrades are designed to reduce mercury emissions from burning sludge in incinerators and the amount of phosphorous that is in discharged water in order to meet the guidelines.

In total, the borough is facing an estimated $80 million worth of upgrades to the treatment plant. The treatment plant, which is located at 500 Cherry St., is run by Veolia Water North America. However, since the plant is owned by the borough, it is Naugatuck that has to pay for the upgrades.

Of that $80 million total, about $13 million of upgrades to improve air quality must be done by the end of March or the borough could face repercussions, including having to shut down parts of the plant.

“As mayor that is my biggest concern,” said Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess about the pending mandated upgrades.

Borough officials plan to present a new proposal for upgrading the plant to the EPA on Jan. 20 that they feel will help the borough remain compliant with the mandates while not being as large of a cost burden.

Hess said officials are currently working on an “integrated resource management plan” that addresses issues with the air quality, the water quality, and the land along the 86-acre parcel of Chemtura property adjacent to the treatment plant.

“An integrated resource management plan is basically an approach whereby we would look at the borough of Naugatuck as a whole, we would look at air quality, water quality, and the land, and come up with a plan to satisfy EPA and [Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] in a way that will resolve our issues and keep us in compliance with all of our permit requirements,” Hess said.

As of last week, officials were still working out the details of the plan, including the cost, and Hess declined to go into specifics on it. However, he said the basis of the plan revolves around implementing new technology at the plant that will change how sludge is processed.

“The borough would like to move forward with a visionary approach to make the wastewater and incineration facilities a resource recovery facility that could achieve net zero electric needs, recover nitrogen and phosphorus, and beneficially use these nutrients,” Hess said. “So, basically, we are looking at new technologies that would achieve those goals and that would be better for the air quality, water quality and the land.”

If the EPA does not give the borough permission to move forward with its plan, Hess said the borough will immediately begin the process of bonding the $13 million for the incinerator upgrades that have to be done this year. The annual cost for bonding that money would be close to $900,000 a year, he said.

If the borough receives the EPA’s blessing to move forward with the new plan, Hess said officials would begin hiring consultants and designing its longer-term resource management plan.

“I am hopeful [the EPA] would consider our plan,” Hess said.

EPA Senior Enforcement Counsel Tom Olivier said the agency is open to hearing the borough’s plan.

“Once a regulated facility goes out of compliance, as this one is likely to do on March 22, then the EPA is always willing to discuss some sort of negotiation or resolution that brings it back into compliance,” Olivier.