BEACON FALLS — The town’s ongoing discussions on how to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant continued this week with a new method laid out for officials.
Engineer David Prickett, of David Prickett Consulting, presented a three-phase plan to upgrade the plant Monday night to the Board of Selectmen.
The plant, which is on Lopus Road, is about 45 years old and major improvements to the plant have been deferred for decades. Officials have been discussing upgrading the plant for several years. In 2013, a study by the engineering firm Woodard & Curran estimated that the plant needed about $16 million worth of work. Officials have since explored a few options on how to proceed, including regionalizing with Seymour.
The first two phases of the plan Prickett presented Monday would include necessary upgrades to efficiently remove sludge, ensure the current machinery continues to run properly and replace machinery that is beyond repair with energy-efficient equipment, he said. The preliminary estimate for the cost of the first two phases is $4.25 million.
The third phase, which is estimated to cost $3.1 million, would consist of adding on to the treatment plant to ensure the plant is within the proper nitrogen limits set by the government, Prickett said. The town is now purchasing nitrogen credits, which allows it to go over the set limits.
This plan is based on the study done by Woodard & Curran.
Prickett, who was employed with Woodard & Curran at the time the study was done, called it a “nearly comprehensive” plan that addressed both the immediate and future needs at the plant. However, the plan’s price tag prevented the town from moving forward with it. The cost of what was included in the study has since increased to $17.5 million, Prickett said.
“That has ultimately sat beyond the back burner. It is off the kitchen table all together,” Prickett said.
Last summer, the town began looking into the possibility of regionalizing its treatment plant with Seymour’s plant. To do so, Prickett said, the town would have to construct a pipe to connect with Seymour’s plant and a pump station.
“In a nutshell getting from your treatment plant to the Seymour treatment plant isn’t all that challenging. It’s not a tremendously far distance,” Prickett said.
Prickett said the cost of getting wastewater to the Seymour plant would vary from $9 million to $18 million depending on how much rock and ledge are along the proposed pipe line.
In addition, Beacon Falls would have to pay to tie into the Seymour plant. Although there haven’t been formal negotiations, preliminary talks have this cost at about $5 million, Prickett said.
“That is not unique to Seymour. Beacon Falls wouldn’t be held hostage. It is just the wastewater business is based on, ‘If you want to be part of my asset, you are going to pay for that right to be part of that asset,’” Pricket said.
Prickett recommended the town continue to explore regionalizing with Seymour as it moves forward with the three-phase plan.
“In my professional opinion I don’t think Seymour is dead. Right now we got to a point where it wasn’t a heck of a lot rosier than what you had on your plate,” he said.
Prickett said the three-phase plan isn’t going to negate the original study that outlined the necessary upgrades, but rather put the town in a position where it can sustain the plant for the foreseeable future.
“It isn’t that the recommended plan from three years ago was wrong, but it was checking a lot of boxes in terms of what the consultants thought Beacon Falls needed over the next 20 years. And it was checking them all at once,” Prickett said.
Prickett said the new plan is based on the idea that if there are 10 major things the town wants to have done and can do five right now it will address the majority of the issues.
“What that has resulted in is a much less costly project,” Prickett said.
Prickett urged officials to continue working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine what grants are available to help pay for the work and to begin design work so the town is ready to begin moving if it receives a grant.
Selectman Peter Betkoski asked if time was a factor in the project.
Prickett said town could move forward at the speed it wished.
This plan comes on the heels of the board voting to use $500,000 from the town’s excess general fund balance to make repairs at the plant. The Board of Finance has to approve using the money. Ultimately, voters have to OK it at a town meeting.
If approved, First Selectman Christopher Bielik said the money could be put toward the first phase of the three-phase plan. He described the overall plan as a more systematic and easier way of upgrading the plant compared to the original $16 million plan.
“I think that this plan lays out a road map that is sellable, for one thing, because taking it in smaller bites like this and doing it in a systematic way is something we will be able to explain and the people of the town will be able to understand,” Bielik said.