Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe on Thursday called upon state environmental officials to study whether it makes sense to regionalize the Ansonia and Derby waste water treatment systems.
Doing so could prevent Derby from one day having to spend tens of millions of dollars to rebuild its aging waste water treatment plant, something Ansonia recently had to do under state order for $50 million, Della Volpe said.
Ansonia had to upgrade its treatment plant to limit “excessive pollutants” from the Naugatuck and Housatonic rivers.
Ansonia residents are paying $270 annually to pay off that $50 million tab. Piping Derby waste water to the Ansonia plant could cut those payments in half, according to Della Volpe.
Derby would make semi-annual payments — the dollar amount of which hasn’t been determined, Della Volpe said — to the Ansonia Water Pollution Control Authority for the use of the Ansonia treatment facility.
“By working together as neighboring communities with a long history of cooperation and with the state, we could use smart regionalism to protect our future and reduce the cost of living and doing business in our communities,” Della Volpe said in a prepared statement.
The text of the mayor’s statement is embedded as a document below.
The audio clip below contains statements from state Rep. Linda Gentile and state Sen. Joseph Crisco (who joined Della Volpe at City Hall for a press conference Thursday) and questions from reporters and Ansonia Alderman Gene Sharkey.
There has been some debate in the past between Derby and Ansonia engineers over whether the Ansonia waste water facility can handle Derby’s flow of sewer water.
Gentile said a feasibility study conducted by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection would provide data from an impartial third party.
“It makes perfect sense to have the state do an impartial analysis of it,” Gentile said.
Ansonia has an engineering report saying it can handle Derby’s flow — provided Derby take steps to reduce what’s called “i and i” (infiltration and inflow) flowing into the Derby sewer system.
“I and I” refers to water that’s not supposed to be making its way into the sewer system, such as storm water. The Derby WPCA is currently examining its sewer system to identify problem areas. Derby city engineers have indicated in the past fixing the “i and i” problems could be an expensive undertaking.
The same engineering report says a Derby-Ansonia connection would also require the construction of a new pumping station, and a new, 8,000-foot pipe would have to be buried underground to connect the two systems.
Della Volpe said he has discussed a DEEP feasibility study with Derby Mayor Anthony Staffieri and Staffieri has indicated he is in favor of it.
A spokesperson for Staffieri said Derby is willing to explore the idea.
“Both cities have done some preliminary exploratory work on this and I believe we would be agreeable to the state taking a further look at the feasibility of something like this,” said Sheila O’Malley, Derby’s economic development director and the mayor’s chief administrative officer.
However, the Derby WPCA has a lot on its plate at the moment. Exploring a connection to Ansonia is one of many items on the “to do” list.
In addition to the “i and i” work now underway, the city’s sewer system needs repairs. A referendum totaling $35 million for repairs and upgrades has been whittled down to about $28 million in repairs.
The WPCA is still calculating the financial impact of those repairs to Derby businesses and residents.
A referendum, delayed several times already, probably won’t go to voters until the first quarter of 2014.
John Saccu, chairman of the Derby WPCA, said Derby has been discussing connecting to Ansonia for some time, under the watchful eye of DEEP.
However, connecting to Ansonia does not eliminate the need for millions of dollars in repairs for the Derby sewer system, Saccu said.
But Saccu welcomed the DEEP study, especially if both communities could benefit.
“We’re gathering information DEEP requires, we’re following mandates to talk to Ansonia and we’ll certainly consider the results of the feasibility study. But our pump stations have to be upgraded regardless of what happens with Ansonia,” Saccu said.
Minutes from a 2012 Derby WPCA meeting show there were concerns in Derby over the ultimate costs of connecting to Ansonia — estimated at $38 million, according to minutes posted below.
If a regional waste water treatment system is created, Della Volpe said the jobs of WPCA staffers in Ansonia and Derby would be protected. The staff could be managed over the long term through retirements.
In addition, each community would retain its separate functions of setting rates and collecting bills, Della Volpe said.
Crisco and Gentile, the state lawmakers, said the state is trying to encourage regionalism in small cities wherever possible.
Both lawmakers said they will meet with DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty to get that agency’s cooperation with a feasibility study.
“This is the epitome of regionalism,” Gentile said. “It’s a win-win for Derby and Ansonia, it’s a win-win for taxpayers, and as somebody who lives here in the city and pays that $270 every year, I certainly would like to see that happen.”
Here is the statement Mayor Della Volpe read Thursday:
Here is an engineering report referenced by Ansonia officials:
Here are meeting minutes from a 2012 Derby WPCA meeting:
More meeting minutes from the Derby WPCA: