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Concerns about Old Lyme Sewers Have Not Been Addressed

To the Editor:

Just four short days after a packed Water Pollution Control Authority meeting where homeowner after homeowner expressed their objections to sewers and to the proposed sewer ordinance, WPCA Chairman Richard Prendergast petitioned the State for $14 million to toss down the sewer drain. That $14 mil – still your tax dollars.  Chairman Prendergast — you were not listening Tuesday evening — again. Selectman Griswold — this project is NOT ‘shovel ready’! There are many outstanding concerns that need to be addressed before a single shovel hits the ground.  Here’s a few:

1 – The only test data (questionable even then) is over 10 years old. All pleas from Sound View to retest, have been ignored. Since the initial test 10 years ago, a pump out ordinance was passed, but the effectiveness of that ordinance has never been tested. Now you want to pass another ordinance mandating sewers even though you have no test data to substantiate the need? 

2 – The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in 2018 mandated the WPCA retest Hawks Nest Beach. The WPCA spent $48,000 of Old Lyme tax dollars to collect test data for 12 months. Testing was completed in 2019, but the WPCA pushed that data to the back shelf and ignored it. When the WPCA was presented with an independent analysis of that data from a renowned professional, the WPCA refused to accept it. That analysis clearly showed there was no pollution at Hawks Nest. Sound View is a half mile from Hawks Nest so it’s reasonable that if there is no pollution at Hawks Nest, there is no pollution at Sound View. Is that why the new test data was shelved and is that why the WPCA continues to refuse to retest Sound View because new test data may negate the validity of this whole project?  

3 – The back of the referendum that was passed in 2019, indicated that only Sound View/Area B would pay for sewers, which made it easier to pass — voted on by the whole town — to be paid by just a few ‘summer people.’ Legal counsel for the WPCA has advised for years that there is a state statute limiting what a WPCA can charge homeowners. The cost of sewers for these three streets stretches way beyond state statute limits. All of the WPCA’s attempts to justify costs, by redefining EDUs (equivalent dwelling units) have been sent back to the drawing board. There is no common EDU factor for this project. Each private beach association has their own definition, and well, the WPCA is still struggling to justify whatever formula they come up with next. You just cannot ignore state statutes. 

4 – Concerns have been raised many times regarding groundwater depletion and salt water invasion.  Do you not read the news about what’s happening now in Stamford and Boston?  We don’t want sewers to destroy our town by depleting our groundwater.  

5 – We asked the WPCA to look at new engineered systems – new technology approved by Connecticut DEEP. The Old Lyme WPCA ignored that request even though we now know engineered systems are superior to sewers, not just in regard to functionality and longevity, but they are also a whole lot cheaper. And with engineered systems we get to keep our groundwater! Why does the WPCA refuse to consider engineered systems? 

6 – Initially the WPCA sewer initiative promised a bath house. Sounded nice, but we don’t talk about that anymore since it’s been eliminated. Instead, we will have a pump station near the beach, a bioxide station in our neighborhood, grinder pumps in our yards, forced abandonment of our wells, and a never-ending row of porta-potties. This is not what the town voted for. 

7 – There are ethical concerns as well. You, Chairman Prendergast, were successful in excluding your properties from this project early on, by raising and voting on your own motion to remove the one and only beach area where you and your family own property. Your properties were excused because of cost. Why doesn’t that same argument apply now for the rest of us? Because of this, and because of the way you have ignored all our requests to retest and to consider alternatives like engineered systems, we think it’s time for you Mr. Chairman to remove yourself from this Board.  

We, the property owners, want what is best for our community, for our town and for the shoreline. We believe what’s best is individual, cost- effective engineered systems. Not a sewer system that on paper already has band aids and employs antiquated, problematic technology like grinder pumps, and requires continual upgrades and maintenance just to function at a subpar level. Just look at what’s happening with the New London plant! We believe we know what is ‘for the greater good’ and it is not sewers. 

Mary Daley
Old Lyme, CT

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