Borough settles with EPA over compliance issue

Naugatuck’s wastewater treatment plant. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted Tuesday to sign a consent decree agreeing to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for mercury emissions at its wastewater treatment plant.

As part of the agreement, the borough will pay the federal government a penalty of $100,000 for being out of compliance for almost two years.

Veolia Water North America, which runs the borough’s treatment plant, shut down the sludge incinerator in March 2016 because borough didn’t meet a deadline to reduce pollutants. The incinerator treats waste material and converts it into gases, particles and heat.

During that time, the borough was also in a dispute with Veolia over a complicated profit-sharing agreement. Veolia makes millions of dollars a year treating sludge from other communities.

The borough lost around $300,000 to $400,000 a month during three months in which the incinerator was shut down.

In June last year, the borough reached a settlement with Veolia on how to comply with the federal mandates. As part of the settlement, the borough agreed to pay $8.2 million to purchase an attachment for the incinerator to remove mercury from the air. The figure was less than an earlier estimate of about $13 million.

Those upgrades are now being designed and built and are expected to be completed by April.

The borough is still waiting for the final agreement from the EPA, according to Borough Attorney Ned Fitzpatrick.

The penalty is based on savings the borough accrued by delaying the upgrade, the borough’s cooperation with the EPA, compliance record, and willingness to ensure that the Clean Air Act will be implemented, Fitzpatrick said.

The fine will be paid in two installments over five months. The first half was included in this year’s budget.

Fitzpatrick said it was a reasonable resolution to a very difficult issue.

Once the upgrade is complete, Veolia must continue reporting to the EPA for the next five years, Fitzpatrick said.

“It’s a very efficient way to dispose of the matter,” Fitzpatrick said. “It would be resolved and done.”