We’ve Granted Exemptions Before, Why Not Here?

The WPCA has spent several years designing a sewer system based on gravity feed but is finally realizing that gravity will not be sufficient to service certain properties in Sound View/Area B, hence the late introduction of grinder pumps (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1rIJn0Nq6c&t=1902s). The suggestion is that individual property owners will bear the long-term cost of maintenance for those pumps, in addition to a rather significant sewer tax.   In addition, the WPCA is now proposing that several properties abandon their working wells.  A triple whammy for a few owners. Well abandonment and grinder pumps, were not part of the design when Old Lyme passed the sewer referendum.  

Grinder pumps are very delicate. They need to be buried at least 6 feet deep OUTSIDE (please Mr. Nixon- not in the basement!) in a secure chamber.  There is an electrical component that should be safely trenched underground and hard wired directly to its own circuit breaker.  If you don’t have a spare circuit breaker or room in your box for one, then a whole panel upgrade is required, and that in itself costs thousands. It costs money to run a grinder pump daily.

A grinder pump for the average home costs about $2000 but the cost to dig and build a holding tank, to install the pump, to run the electric connection, to potentially expand a circuit breaker box or upgrade the electric service from the street to the house, to repair and maintain, and the potential damage to property could easily be ten-fold that amount.  Grinder pumps can and will fail and it takes lots of cash to get the pump running again. I know. I have experience.

Slow drains, odors, sewage entering the home, is usually the first sign to a property owner that a pump is failing. Electrical outages, surges, and of course, anything and everything that might enter the chamber that shouldn’t can cause this. Those little disinfectant wipes used to fight Covid 19 – even just a few – can bind and destroy a grinder. When the pump jams, the manhole size holding tank fills rather quickly. The pump’s electronic component may become wet, which in turn, with luck, trips the circuit breaker. When the circuit breaker pops and the pump stops completely (hopefully before any damage to the motor) there is no place for the homes’ drains to drain so water from all household sources, backs up into the home and into the ground. You may need an electrician to rewire or at a minimum replace the electrical plug in the holding tank. You will definitely require a service to pump out the chamber and repair or replace the pump.  These services can run into the thousands, and you must abandon the home until all the repairs are completed.  

An exemption was granted to a few properties in Point of Woods when it became too difficult and costly to include those properties in the sewer design.  Granting exemptions did not affect Clean Water Funds eligibility.  Per DEEP, it is within the OL WPCA’s discretion to grant exemptions, so why not grant exemptions here?

Grinder pumps are not a good solution for Sound View. Forcing home owners to abandon their working septic systems and wells at significant expense, for something that may or may not service the community, is not acceptable.

Mary Daley
Old Lyme, CT

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