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3-SITE UPGRADES NOW SEEN AS STONINGTON'S TOP SEWAGE OPTION

By Tom Kasprzak - The Sun Staff

STONINGTON - The three waste treatment facilities should be upgraded with a particular emphasis on the Mystic plant, according to members of the Water Pollution Control Authority.

WPCA Chairman James Sisk said the group now agrees that the best option for solving the town's waste treatment needs for the next 20 years is to upgrade all three plants.

Sisk added that the plan will go to Camp, Dresser and McKee, consultants for the authority, so they can go over options and costs for upgrading all three facilities.

"I want something that's going to improve the capacity of Mystic," Sisk said.

Authority members agreed that the first priority is to figure out how to stop the diversion of effluent from the Mystic facility to the Borough plant. The diversion from the Borough to Mystic was approved by Stonington voters in July 1995, following pressure from the state, which threatened to fine the town if they did not solve the Mystic capacity problems.

Since the diversion, the Borough's effluent into Stonington Harbor has increased from 280,000 gallons a day to 400,000.

Last year, the WPCA announced alternatives to solve the capacity issues with the Mystic plant, including the plan to construct a $40 million single-plant alternative. All the effluent from that facility would be directed into the harbor, sparking concern from residents.

Ultimately, residents formed The Better Solutions Task Force, which commissioned scientists to study the harbor to determine affects the current effluent is having on the harbor. According to the group's study, the harbor is being degraded by nitrogen and metals.

However, in a letter from Dennis Greci, the supervising sanitary engineer for the state's waste management bureau, to Walter Johnsen, a member of the task force, Greci blatantly disagrees with UConn's assessment. Greci goes on to say that Stonington has not violated state or federal laws regarding the discharge of nitrogen, or the presence of metals in the harbor.

Stonington was most recently looking to tap into a regional sewage treatment system with Groton, but Groton made it clear that they are not interested in the merger.

With that prospect gone, the authority has been forced to start from square one, looking for new alternatives to deal with the capacity problems in Mystic, and the call from residents to stop the diversion to the borough.

On Tuesday night, Jack Gorby, a member of the task force, gave a presentation of a new technology that he would like to see implemented in Stonington's waste treatment plants.

"Our objective is to find a roadmap for cleaning up Stonington harbor," he said.

Gorby explained that he has found a company called Global Water Systems in Dallas, Texas, that makes effluent processing modules, and claims that they clean the water of nitrogen and metals, and produce minimal sludge.

Gorby said that each module can handle 50,000 gallons of effluent a day. The borough facility would need several modules, he said, and the first year's total cost would be $815,000. He suggested that the authority begin looking at a one-year pilot program, starting with one module, and see how it performs.

"If that is successful than the authority might want to consider replacing (components in) Mystic and the borough," Gorby said.

He added that the task force would help find grants to fund the project.

Members of the authority seemed skeptical. Sisk questioned whether the town would still have to retain its current equipment, including aeration chambers, which help oxygenate sewage in the process of cleaning it.

Officials from United Water, the town's staffing firm, explained that they have heard of these modules, which are created by several different companies around the country. They explained that they are gaining popularity, but are utilized mostly by small communities and commercial businesses.

Ken Maltese, the regional manager for United Water, explained that the largest hurdle to begin a pilot program in Stonington, would be getting permits approved by the DEP, but he added that is may be worth looking into.

"The state is reluctant to approve new technologies," he said.

Members of the authority agreed that the technology is worth looking into, and said that they would ask CDM to research the idea along with upgrading all three plants.

tkasprzak@thewesterlysun.com

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