OLD LYME — Questions and complaints have arisen about the residential location of a staging area for Connecticut Water Company that is also the planned site of an odor control system for an upcoming sewer project that will serve three chartered beach associations and the Sound View beach community.
The .91-acre parcel at 308 Gorton Avenue, owned by Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, is deed-restricted as a “play field or for a clubhouse for use only of members of the Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, and for no other purposes.” The deed was recorded on Sept. 22, 1952.
“When we bought the house twenty five years ago, the whole assumption was that nothing could ever happen over there,” said Bill Reynolds, who lives across the street from the field. He pointed to a mountainous dirt pile that rose behind a six-foot fence separating the work area from the road.
“This pile is half of what it was last week,” he said. “You couldn’t see the pine trees last week. But this project isn’t even close to half over yet,” he said.
Connecticut Water is currently using the property as a staging area for the installation of water mains and laterals in the Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, one of chartered beach communities. Connecticut Water is also at work — using separate staging areas — on the roads in Old Colony Beach Association and Miami Beach Association, the other two chartered beach communities, as well as the town-designated Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Area B.
When the work started in March, Connecticut Water installed a low fence along the edge ball field near the road and did not provide watering gear to keep the dust in check. Since then, the company has stacked pipes and pieces of equipment along the roadside across from Reynolds’ house. Beginning early in the morning and continuing through the day, trucks roll in and out, delivering and picking up piles of sand and gravel. Dust blows into Reynolds’ house. He said he is weary of the beeping of construction equipment backing up and the slamming of truck tailgates.
Reynolds said he went to Town Hall about two months ago and discovered the company hadn’t pulled a permit, which drew the attention of Dan Bourret, zoning enforcement officer for the town.
“The reason why there is fencing up now, the sprinkler system is in and the hours of operation that they are working now, is that Bill Reynolds brought that up and we had them come in and get an administrative permit for a temporary construction area as allowed in the R10 zone,” said Bourret. “I know one reason [he’s] upset is Bill feels like this is going on for a long time and I can certainly sympathize with him on that, but we don’t have a definition of temporary in our zoning regs so it’s kind of a little up in the air now. I’m trying to push them through as fast as I can but I do know the water project should be wrapping up this fall.”
Bourret said the staging area located on Shore Road by the police station that’s being used by Connecticut Water for the town’s streets is also temporary and “should wrap up this fall.”
The bigger issue, beyond the completion of the water mains installation, is the sewer project and the location of its odor control system.
On August 13, 2019, town voters approved a $9.5 million sewer construction bond for Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Area B, where Reynolds’ house is located. A Clean Water Funds grant cost is expected to reduce the cost to $7.44 million, a 25 percent savings.
The three chartered beach communities will each construct sewers and will share some costs with each other and the town, including a pump house, force main and odor control system. The location of the pump house at 73 Portland Avenue has been agreed upon by all parties and was approved by the Zoning Commission on October 15. The force main will run up Portland Ave., all have agreed.
As far as the odor control system, according to a June 20 presentation to Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, the ball field is the “only location that meets all the DEEP requirements.”
Carlos Esguerra, a sanitary engineer at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said a location off of Sea Spray Road immediately south of the Amtrak corridor was considered, but it afforded “little to no extra room.”
“This is why it was decided to move the system to the west to where it is currently proposed for installation. The system will be housed inside a small shed and an injection quill extending to the force main on Route 156,” he said. “The odor control system will dose a chemical into the force main to control the formation of hydrogen sulfide gas that if left unabated can lead to corrosion of the pipe.”
He said the selection criteria for the odor control system was threefold: It had to be located outside of the 100-year floodplain, be near the force main pipe corridor and have easy access to facilitate maintenance. DEEP also required that no chemicals be stored within the 100-year floodplain.
“These conditions limited the number of viable sites,” he said.
According to Matt Merritt, president of the Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, further language in the deed leaves open the use of the parcel on Gorton Ave.
“Based on the advice of our three attorneys after they reviewed the documents, they said we could actually use the field as we see fit,” he said.
Bourret said the town doesn’t enforce deed restrictions. He said that if Reynolds and his neighbors objected to the plan, the matter would have to be brought as a civil suit.
First Selectman Timothy Griswold agreed with Bourret that the town would not step in concerning deed restrictions. He also said that the town has not yet joined the cost-sharing agreement with the three beach associations.
Merritt said that Old Lyme Shores Beach Association will grant an easement to the other partners of the sewer project and intends to be compensated for the location of the odor control system on Gorton Ave.
Reynolds said he is worried that the field will become a staging area for the sewer project, even before the odor control system is built, which could extend the noise and dust for several more years.
Bourret said he hasn’t received an application for using the field as a staging area for the sewer project.
“Based on my conversations with the people on Gorton, I do have some concerns about that,” he said. “I indicated that if we have an application to do something like that then [Reynolds] will have the opportunity to present their concerns and give input at least for those structures approved.”
Merritt said his board will consider alternate sites for sewer staging “if it’s feasible along with the shared infrastructure.”
“If it’s feasible to use another parcel that’s less interruptive to those folks on Gorton Avenue, we will. I understand and recognize that the staging of Connecticut Water is a little bit interruptive for them. If we find a different site or someone presents an alternate site, we’ll certainly entertain it,” he said.
Reynolds said he was also concerned about the Bioxide chemical used in the odor control system and that the building would be placed very close to his neighbor’s house across the street.
The Inland Wetlands Commission approved a plan for sewers in the Old Lyme Shores Beach Association that included the bioxide facility, according to Jan. 28 minutes.
However, Esguerra said the design plans are currently under review.
“The final project design has not received final approval from DEEP. The Associations will also need to secure local zoning and building approvals for the proposed system,” he said.
Zoning Commission approval of the odor control system facility, if given, will require a hearing for a special permit.