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New London Opts to Renegotiate Regional Sewer Agreement

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NEW LONDON — At its December 19 meeting, the New London Water and Water Pollution Control Authority voted to renegotiate the 30-year-old sewage agreement with the towns of Waterford and East Lyme. 

The tri-town agreement would have automatically renewed on January 10, 2021 for a ten-year period unless one or more member municipalities gave formal notice to the other parties to change or terminate the agreement. 

The three towns share the use of the Thomas E. Piacenti Regional Water Pollution Control Facility in New London. The plant can process 10 millions gallons per day. New London is allocated 55 percent of that capacity, or 5.5 million gallons per day. Waterford’s portion is 30 percent, or 3 millions gallons per day. East Lyme’s portion is 15 percent or 1.5 million gallons per day. 

New London and the Town of Waterford entered into an agreement for use of the Piacenti plant in 1975 and the Town of East Lyme joined in 1991, forming the tri-town agreement. 

At the meeting, Barry J. Weiner, New London WPCA chair, asked members to add an agenda item that would propose renegotiating the agreement. 

“We strongly feel the current agreement be renegotiated to our advantage or improvement in the current way it’s set up,” he said. “I think we are entering the last year of the contract so we have plenty of time and realistically, nobody’s going anywhere, but we don’t want our hands tied to an agreement that may not necessarily be as good for us as it should be.” 

In a December 26 phone call with CT Examiner, Joseph Lanzafame, Director of Public Utilities, said the 30-year-old agreement needed updating and simplification. 

“I think all of the towns are in agreement that the language is antiquated and complicated so the way that billing done is very complex. There’s a lot of detail in it and I think everyone wanted to simplify it,” he said. “It might have seemed as if it was a unilateral New London thing, but if you talk to any of the three towns, I think they’ll all agree that it needs to be looked at.”

Lanzafame said he bills the towns of Waterford and East Lyme twice a year, in July and January, based on estimates of the towns’ outflows. In January, a second component, known as the adjustment, which is based on the previous year’s actual numbers, is added to the calculation through a complex set of formulas. 

“There’s a whole slew of calculations that go around figuring that piece of it out,” he said. “It’s long, it’s complicated and we want to try to figure out a better way to do that.”

According to the agreement, the towns also share costs of operating, repairing and maintaining the plant, bearing the “same ratio to such costs as the actual volume of each town’s sewage treated in the Piancenti Facility.” 

After the meeting, Weiner did not name specific details but said the current contract did not reflect current costs and processes. 

“The contract is 30 years old, times change, situations change, costs change, processes change, so we just need to take a look at how the terms that were effective 30 years ago can be modified to currently reflect what’s happening today,” he said. “The whole environment and science, everything has changed, we need to get the agreement current with changes in how things are done.” 

He said the renegotiation is unrelated to the upcoming sewer projects in Old Lyme’s three chartered beach communities, as well as the town’s Sound View Beach. 

“It has nothing to do with that. We’re still hopeful, we have had some preliminary talks with Old Lyme — we’re just talking with Old Lyme about additional capacity requests,” he said. “We have an existing agreement with the private beach associations. They will be tying in and that’s all set, so this does not affect any of that, that’s already set in stone.”

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