The federal government has ordered the City of Derby to establish a 24-hour hotline for residents to report sewage backups, to compile a list of every sewer “bypass” since 2013 — and to guarantee the city will replace three failing sewage pump stations on Burtville Avenue, Roosevelt Drive and South Division Street.
The orders come from an enforcement action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against the City of Derby under the Clean Water Act, the federal law governing water pollution.
It stems from an EPA inspection last year that revealed the city discharged raw sewage into the Naugatuck and Housatonic rivers at least four times since June 2011.
The Derby Board of Aldermen agreed to the terms during a meeting Thursday and authorized Mayor Anita Dugatto to sign a 16-page “consent decree” with the EPA.
There was little discussion of the matter at the Aldermen meeting, other than comments made by Second Ward Alderman Art Gerckens, who has previously said he’s lost confidence in the city’s management of its sewer system.
Click play on the audio clip below to hear the discussion.
Gerckens questioned whether workers or consultants within the city’s Water Pollution Control Authority were being held accountable for the faults cited by the EPA.
The Water Pollution Control Authority refers to the employees who work in the city’s sewer department. They are supervised by a group of volunteer citizens, also called the Water Pollution Control Authority.
“Is anybody being reprimanded for this? Is anybody being fired? The (consulting) engineers . . . are they being reprimanded?” Gerckens asked.
No one answered.
“Frankly, it is quite embarrassing the city has to put their name to this document,” Gerckens said.
The order is embedded below.
The order sets up a formal process in which Derby must provide the EPA with detailed data regarding its sewer system and sewage treatment plant.
The city has until Aug. 1 to submit a “collection system bypass summary” to both the EPA and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
The report will detail every time in 2013, 2014 and 2015 wastewater escaped the sewer system, whether from a busted pipe, a backup in a home or business, or any other mess-up.
In addition to listing the incident the feds want to know the cause, the estimated number of gallons leaked, the method used to arrive at the estimate, where the stuff ended up, and a host of other details.
Derby must also prepare an “emergency response plan” and submit it to federal and state regulators.
That document will spell out how the WPCA workers deal with sewage backups and related problems. As part of the plan, the city has to establish a 24-hour telephone number the public will use to report “bypasses.”
If the city has a problem within its sewers, workers must also notify state health and environmental officials within two hours, according to the order.
Derby must also:
- By Jan. 1, 2017 submit an “inflow and infiltration control plan” to the EPA and DEEP. “Inflow and infiltration” refers to water that makes its way into the sewer system but isn’t supposed to be there. Example — storm gutters that empty into the sewers.
- By July 1, 2017, Derby must replace its South Division Street pump station.
- By Nov. 1, 2016, Derby must submit a proposal to replace the Roosevelt Drive pump station, “including a specific date by which such project will be complete.”
Derby voters approved $31.2 million in repairs to the sewer system in November 2014. The approval included the replacement of the pump stations. The repairs are expected to add between $256 and $275 to the typical single family WPCA bill per year.
However, the projects have been stalled for a variety of reasons — including the fact the WPCA has run afoul of both the EPA and DEEP.
A DEEP inspector, in a separate analysis, found the city’s sewage treatment plant to be “poorly operated and in overall disrepair.”
The EPA order seeks to end further delays regarding the pump station projects. It holds Derby to a formal timeline regarding the pump station replacements.
Stephen Iacuone, an Alderman and a Derby WPCA employee, told the Valley Indy the consent decree is essentially a report card or progress report — and that workers are complying with the detailed paper trail required under the order.
Iacuone noted EPA orders are not unusual, as Shelton and Stratford have experienced similar mandates.
Don Demanuel is the chairman of the WPCA, the appointed volunteers who supervise the sewer department’s budget.
In an email to the Valley Indy, Demanuel said the consent order gets everyone on the same page moving forward.
The procedures outlined in the document are the procedures being followed by the WPCA employees.
“A consent order from a federal regulatory agency is never a situation a municipality wants to be in,” Demanuel said.
But the order isn’t out of the blue. The city, through the WPCA and lawyers, have been working with the EPA on the order for a year.
“They worked with us on a plan to address the issues that we agreed is attainable for the WPCA and the city,” Demanuel said. “Operationally, the order provides a clear road map to addressing our opportunity areas and correcting them.”
And the order puts in writing what the city was already planning to do — extensive infrastructure improvements.
“From an infrastructure standpoint it provides a clear timeline for resolving the outstanding questions and taking action. Our voters provided the money for the project through the bond and now we must finalize the plans and turn them into action,” Demanuel said.
EPA spokesman Dave Deegan said Derby has been working cooperatively with his agency and DEEP to resolve the issues. He noted the order isn’t official until all parties sign the dotted line.
“To specifically address your questions, if the proposed agreement you have been provided is finalized, the city will be required to implement certain programs to help it comply with the Clean Water Act, and EPA will be monitoring the city’s progress in these tasks,” Deegan said in an email.