GROTON — The Groton Town Council Committee of the Whole discussed the regulatory barriers and costs of extending sewer service throughout the town during its Tuesday night meeting.
Councilor Joe Zeppieri, who raised the possibility of extending municipal sewer to the entire town of Groton, said that in the course of campaigning, residents in the northern neighborhoods of Groton complained to him that they paid a sewer tax, but didn’t have any sewer. Zeppieri also said that during a recent move he noticed that houses with municipal sewer and water connections were worth more than houses on septic and wells.
According to Zeppieri, developers and potential homeowners would be more likely to come to Groton with municipal sewer and water available. With wells being contaminated by nearby septic fields, he said the availability of sewers is also a health issue.
DEEP established a sewer availability map for Groton in 2003 that designated much of the town north of Interstate 95 as a “planned sewer avoidance area.” Director of Public Works Greg Hanover said that town would have to work with DEEP to change that.
But Hanover said that there are still areas where the town could extend sewer service without DEEP approval. He said that service north of Route 184 would be difficult to sell to the state.
Hanover said there had been some interest from developers wanting to extend sewer up Route 117. Councilor Conrad Heede said that the town should work with developers on sewer expansion so they can cover some of the cost instead of taxpayers paying for all of it.
Finance Director Cindy Landry said that almost everyone in town pays the sewer district property tax, which pays for the bonding for upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment plant. There is also a sewer benefit assessment, which Landry said nobody is currently paying, but was “quite high” the last time the town put a sewer in.
In 2013, Groton voters rejected a $9.9 million bond issue to run water and sewer to businesses in the Flanders Road area north of 95. Considering the cost of that project, Hanover said that extending sewers to the whole town would cost the in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Zeppieri agreed that it would be expensive and couldn’t happen immediately, but said the council should start planning for it.
“If we decide now, or sometime in the next few months, that it is something we want to accomplish, I doubt that any of us will be on the council at the time it’s finally accomplished,” Zeppieri said.
Zeppieri also proposed extending water service, but Town Manager John Burt said Aquarian and Groton Utilities are responsible for the water, so all the council could do is request that they look at expanding service.