OLD LYME — While three chartered beach associations have already negotiated agreements to install sewers — and the town follows behind with a referendum this summer approving sewers for Sound View Beach — Hawk’s Nest Beach, Inc. continues to challenge the town’s mandate to install sewers.
Hawk’s Nest Beach, Inc. Association is arguing that it should be excluded from the town’s sewerage project, citing a lack of data proving excessive E. coli, nitrogen or other pollutants. The association includes 100 cottages — about 75 percent seasonal — along West End Drive, Avenue A, Sidewalk Lane, Striper Lane, Bluefish Lane and Hawk’s Nest Road in Old Lyme. The beach community was established in 1895 by the Garvin family, which still owns 42 rental cottages in the association.
Nearby Hawk’s Nest Beach Club, with more than 200 houses, and Hawk’s Nest Beach Investment Corporation, with about 30 houses, have not joined the Garvin’s challenge to the town mandate.
Incomplete water tests
From 1998 to 2012, Nathan L. Jacobson and Associates , Inc. tested the groundwater at Hawk’s Nest Beach, Inc., Association, but found levels of nitrogen considered acceptable or low. The testing was discontinued according to Sandy Garvin, because nothing of significance was found.
The town resumed every-other-month testing in three Hawk’s Nest communities in July 2018, with the last published results available on the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) webpage, dated March 2019.
In a June 27 email to CT Examiner, Carlos Esguerra, a sanitary engineer with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), confirmed that the town will continue monitoring Hawk’s Nest’s test wells until next year.
“The Town is performing additional groundwater monitoring to more accurately delineate groundwater quality conditions in this area. We expect that once the monitoring phase is completed next year, and results are tabulated and evaluated, a wastewater management alternative will be recommended for this community,” Esguerra wrote.
He said that an Environmental Impact Evaluation, known as an EIE, has not been developed yet for Hawk’s Nest. Under the requirements of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA), any project which may pose significant adverse environmental impacts requires an evaluation.
According to the “Environmental Impact Evaluation for Coastal Wastewater Management Plan” prepared for the Town of Old Lyme by DEEP, dated June 11, 2018, the EIE “is intended to address the requirements set forth in Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) and “as a supporting document for the Old Lyme Coastal Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP), dated April 14, 2017 for the Town Sub-Areas, i.e, Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Town Area B.”
“Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Town Area B are recommended to join efforts with the beach associations to install sanitary sewers in a coordinated fashion, while the Hawk’s Nest Beach Association has been recommended for additional groundwater monitoring due to data gaps,” states the report.
In the meantime, during 2010-2011, three of the town’s chartered beach associations — Old Colony Beach, Old Lyme Shores and Miami Beach — conducted their own, separate groundwater studies and approved separate bonds to finance installing sewer systems that would connect through East Lyme and Waterford to New London. In 2018, the three associations signed intermunicipal agreements with East Lyme and Waterford to connect with the New London sewer treatment plant. The three associations have said they are waiting for variances and easements from the town so that construction can commence.
Garvin said the town did not consult with Hawk’s Nest Beach Inc., Association before including the association in the town’s plan to sewer Sound View and two other town parcels near the shore.
In a Sept. 30, 2014 public information meeting in Town Hall, Woodard & Curran, an engineering firm hired by the town presented a “Regional Wastewater Management Project,” that recommended installing sewers in the beach communities, including the three chartered beach associations, all three Hawk’s Nest communities, two town parcels known as Area A and Area B, White Sands Beach, and the town’s beach, Sound View.
Citing a lack of evidence to support being included in the town’s plan, Hawk’s Nest Beach, Inc. Association hired an environmental engineering firm, GeoInsight, in Sept. 2015, for help in gathering data on the groundwater conditions and health of its septic fields. The association sited three test wells along the frontage of Hawk’s Nest to sample groundwater for nitrates and nitrites and the results were “well below limits and nearly drinking water quality,” said Garvin.
In an Oct. 9, 2015 email to Dennis Greci, supervising sanitary engineer at DEEP, Garvin asked for physical evidence of a pollution problem at Hawk’s Nest Beach and expressed her frustration with the town.
“There have been no reports of septic failures, health issues or beach closures due to high pollution count. Our depth-to-groundwater and soil drainage capacities are documented in town records on recent septic replacement and upgrade permits which show better than required conditions. All of that data is open and available to Woodard & Curran had they been directed to look there,” she wrote.
In a January 12, 2016 memo, “Pathogenic Contamination of Groundwater in the Vicinity of Hawk’s Nest Beach Area, Old Lyme,” Vijay Sikand, then-director of health for the Town of Old Lyme, singled out Hawk’s Nest to the town’s WPCA.
“The threat to public health of contaminated groundwater in the Hawk’s Nest vicinity and neighboring beach areas has been of growing concern to town governance, the WPCA, the Old Lyme Health Department, Connecticut State Department of Public Health, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as well as potentially affected residents in recent years,” he wrote.
Sikand wrote that “we have now collected enough objective information to conclude the groundwater in the areas studied is undeniably contaminated with infectious pathogens that pose a real and present public health threat.”
Garvin says that Sikand didn’t cite the source of his data, and contends that his presentation stirred up fear among Old Lyme residents that Hawk’s Nest was polluted.
After years of push back from Hawk’s Nest Beach, Inc. Association, the town has agreed to wait for the results of the Hawk’s Nest associations’ monitoring tests, but Garvin is vigilant.
“We fail to see the justification to put sewers in our neighborhood. With 40-90” depth-to-groundwater, averaging at 60”, excellent soils for attenuation, no indications of pollution or E. coli or excessive nitrogen, no reports of health issues, no beach closures, EVER, no reports of ponding or sewage backups, no wells, but 100% Connecticut Water, how can we be classified as high needs?” wrote Garvin in an email. “We respectfully challenge the town’s right to mandate sewers on our community which does not demonstrate a need as stated.”