Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Overdue Sewage Treatment Bill Might be on the Way for Norwalk

Norwalk spent (if my recollection is right) more than $60 million in the 1990s to essentially rebuild its sewage treatment plant, with the result that it’s one of the best on Long Island Sound in terms of removing nitrogen. Now the city’s public works department is saying it might need $100 million more over the next decade for capital improvements.

That surprises me and it surprises the new mayor, Richard Moccia.

Here’s what the Stamford Advocate reported today:

Moccia said he is concerned about long-range spending on the wastewater plant. The Public Works Department has warned him it may need to spend $100 million over the next decade on capital budget projects, Moccia said.

"I want to look long and hard. It can't just be (Public Works) putting things on the table and saying, 'We need this many million, the state Department of Environmental Protection requires this,'" Moccia said. "I have a hard time reconciling a plant less than 10 years old requires so many upgrades."

The plant was upgraded in the mid-1990s to improve the removal of environmentally harmful nitrogen from treated wastewater flushed into Long Island Sound.

Alvord has said he has found little evidence that the city or Operations Management International, which has run the plant since June 2000, invested enough money in maintaining and improving other parts of the wastewater system.

The extra money may simply be Norwalk’s deferred cost of helping to keep the Norwalk River, the thousands of acres of oysters beds around the Norwalk Islands, and the Sound clean. I say “deferred cost” because in the late 1980s, the Norwalk plant was in such poor shape that it was releasing sewage into the river, from an outfall opposite the Maritime Aquarium, that was about as close to untreated as wastewater coming from a treatment plant can be. In other words, Norwalk residents weren’t paying much to keep the plant in good shape in the 1970s and ‘80s (and probably earlier) and so the bill might have come due now.


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