After a heavy rain, you can tell Derby’s Roosevelt Drive pump station is overwhelmed by looking at the toilet paper stuck in tree branches leading down to the Housatonic River.
The price tag to fix — $6.8 million.
But replacing the pump station means a 12-inch main that stretches to Bridge Street must be replaced with a 16-inch main to handle increased flow from the new Roosevelt Drive pump station.
That’s another $3.4 million.
Then there’s $9 million worth of repairs and upgrades down at the Water Pollution Control Facility itself at the end of Caroline Street near the city’s river walk.
Those three items are at the heart of a larger $34.6 million referendum the city’s Water Pollution Control Authority wants to send to voters in April or May.
John Saccu, the chairman of the volunteer authority, is urging Derby residents to attend two information sessions to learn — and question — why the WPCA wants to borrow money to repair the city’s sewer infrastructure.
The dates for the info sessions are:
7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 25, at Derby Middle School
7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb, 27, at Hotchkiss Hose Fire House
“I want people to be informed. The more knowledge they have about what we are facing, the better able they will be to make a decision when we go to referendum,” Saccu said.
The precise question — or questions — Derby voters will be asked to consider at the yet-to-be scheduled referendum is still a work in progress.
However, one question is definite, Saccu said. It involves seeking permission from voters to bond $34,688,000 to tackle eight infrastructure projects.
Another unknown, at least as of Friday, Feb. 22 — the impact the borrowing will have on sewer bills.
“It won’t be like we’ll have a large assessment all at one,” Saccu said. “We’ll have a certain amount as we go.”
Saccu said the precise calculations are still being made.
“We’ll release that as soon as we get it,” Saccu said Wednesday (Feb. 20). “If we have those answers by next week’s forums, we’ll release it there.”
City officials are also debating internally whether to spread the bond payments throughout the entire tax base or just residents and businesses using sewer service.
Any questions put to Derby residents will be reviewed first by the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Apportionment and Taxation. Finally, a formal public hearing will have to be held prior to the referendum.
The repair projects are needed because the WPCA historically has not kept up on replacing its infrastructure, Saccu said. The sewer system, its pump stations, pipes and related equipment are plagued with constant breakdowns.
Many of the pump stations have a 20-year lifespan — but have been in operation in Derby since the 1960s.
“At this point, it doesn’t really help the situation to lay blame,” Saccu said. “This went on for years and years.”
A list of the projects is below.
Saccu said the projects will not, obviously, happen all at once, but will be spread out over a number of years.
WPCA officials said the first three (labeled 1A, 1B and 2) are all connected, meaning that one project can’t be done without the other two projects.
The projects are ranked in order of priority.
1A. Roosevelt Drive wastewater pumping station: This is the pump station across from Cemetery Avenue on Roosevelt Drive. During the first six months of 2012, it allowed 300,000 gallons of raw sewage to spill into the Housatonic River directly below it. State environmental authorities levied a violation against the city. Repairs have made often, but the WPCA — and the state — said the facility has outlived its expected lifespan and needs to be replaced with a new pump station.
1B.Roosevelt Drive wastewater pumping station forcemain and sewer improvements: This replaces an undersized 12-inch forcemain from the aforementioned pump station with a 16-inch forcemain.
2.Water Pollution Control Facility Phase I Upgrades Project: This is a series of upgrades that should have been done years ago at the Caroline Street wastewater facility. The upgrades include an influent screening system, replacing influent pumping equipment, replacing the grit removal and processing equipment, replacing the “solids dewatering” equipment and implementing an odor control system, among other upgrades.
3.Route 34 sewer improvement project:The WPCA wants to replace undersized, 18-inch gravity sewers with 24-inch gravity sewers along Route 34 in downtown Derby. In addition, this project involves the replacement of sewers on Olivia, Elizabeth, Minerva, Caroline and Water streets. The goal is to get the funding and do this project at the same time as the state plans to widen Route 34 downtown.
4. South Division Street wastewater pumping station upgrades: South Division is a short road that runs under Division Street near Taco Bell. The WPCA said this pumping station was built in the 1960s and is so run-down it is becoming a threat to workers’ safety. The steel box, 35 feet underground, is rotting from the inside out. The WPCA wants to replace it.
5.Burtville Avenue wastewater pumping station upgrades: The WPCA wants to replace an aging, outdated pumping station on private property.
6.Division Street Wastewater Pumping Station and Siphon Abandonment Project: The WPCA wants to build a new pumping station near BJ’s Wholesale. This will take away the need to worry about a problematic pipe system currently submerged in the Naugatuck River.
7.East Derby wastewater pumping station: The WPCA wants to build a new pumping station near Smoke ‘n Bones on Route 34. This will take away the need to worry about a problematic pipe system currently submerged in the Housatonic River.
While the $34.6 million is a hefty price tag — especially when considering the WPCA’s annual operating budget is just about $2 million — the WPCA may be able to benefit by using city’s solid credit rating and the low interest currently available in the market.
Complicating the matter — the WPCA is an authority, meaning it’s autonomous and sets its own budget. If the WPCA had to go out on its own to borrow, they probably wouldn’t be able to bond $34 million.
Saccu said finally addressing the city’s sewer woes is for the greater good of Derby.
“This is vital infrastructure for the city. Not only now, but also as we move forward,” Saccu said.
Hey, Why Doesn’t Derby Connect With Ansonia?
Ansonia has a new, $53 million wastewater treatment facility. The two cities had been talking about Derby bringing its wastewater treatment to Ansonia’s new facility.
However, Saccu said Ansonia can’t handle Derby’s waste, in part because Derby’s system is plagued with excess water infiltration.
“Ansonia, right now, cannot take our flows by a long shot,” Saccu said.
Leo DiSorbo, a member of the city’s volunteer WPCA, said Derby and Ansonia officials haven’t discussed the possibility of joining forces in some six to seven months. The state’s environmental regulatory agency wants Derby and Ansonia to meet once a year to discuss joining forces.
Anthony DeSimone, an engineer for the Derby WPCA, said even if everyone agreed Ansonia is a viable option — which it isn’t — a connection is a decade away.
The $34 million in repairs and upgrades to the city’s sewer infrastructure would be needed regardless, DeSimone said.