The Derby Board of Aldermen Thursday approved an “order of consent” from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding the city’s sewer system/Water Pollution Control Authority.
The Valley Indy conducted an email Q&A with Don Demanuel, the chairman of the Derby Water Pollution Control Authority, a group of appointed volunteers who have authority over the WPCA budget and employees.
The order is embedded at the bottom of this post.
Valley Indy: I’m a layman, but it reads like the EPA will have close supervision over the Derby Water Pollution Control Authority going forward.
Don Demanuel: “The intent of the consent order is to call attention to the operational and Infrastructure issues that are present and provide a written agreement or consent on how the issues will be addressed and the timeline.
By entering into the consent order, we are confirming agreement of these actions and the timelines.
The WPCA, Board of Alderman and the Mayor were participants in reaching this agreement. I would expect the EPA will monitor our progress closely to ensure we are meeting the commitments we agreed to.”
Valley Indy:Does anyone know if anyone from the WPCA was previously reporting overflow reports to the proper authorities?
Demanuel: “As I understand it, there was not clarity on the part of the WPCA that Bypass Instances were required to be reported. Through working with CT DEEP and the EPA we have corrected this understanding of the requirement. As stated in the Order, we will be providing information on the unreported Bypasses to the EPA and CT DEEP by Aug. 1.”
Valley Indy: What’s your reaction to the document?
Demanuel: “A consent order from a federal regulatory agency is never a situation a municipality wants to be in. As I have said in the past, there was a great deal of collaboration which the EPA and CT DEEP provided to Derby in an effort to ensure the issues were understood.
They worked with us on a plan to address the issues that we agreed is attainable for the WPCA and the City.
Operationally, the Oder provides a clear road map to addressing our opportunity areas and correcting them.
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.”
Valley Indy: How did it come to this?
Demanuel: “It is difficult as an eight-month board member to pinpoint where in our history we allowed operational shortfalls to occur or where we were required to implement a new standard and did not.
There may be others with far greater experience with the situation who would be better qualified to offer that assessment.
As I shared in the past, some of the operational shortfalls have contributing factors which come from the daily oversight efforts of a significantly aged infrastructure.
An aging infrastructure is not a problem unique to Derby.
Many municipalities will deal with this problem and some will do it better than others.
In the past 15 years, Derby has seen a significant shift in the make up of businesses and residences which our wastewater system supports.
While downtown main street had several buildings removed, we have seen other additions including the Griffin cancer center, Shop Rite Plaza, Red Raider Plaza, Lowers, McDonald’s in east Derby, a new middle school, over 30 new residential properties and others which I am sure I missed.
While all of this contributes to our tax base, it also contributes to our wastewater system and puts additional demand on a system which we know is decades beyond its design life.
All of these factors have led us to this point.
Here is a simple standard we can all follow. When a new business wants to go up in Derby, the oversight board who grants the permit should first call the WPCA and ask one simple question: when this business opens the drains of flushes its toilets, are you prepared to handle what is coming your way?
If the answer is no, we might want to think about if this is the right fit at the right time.
Remember, those taxpayers who benefit from the small business development are also the ones paying for our capital improvement project to replace the aged wastewater system. We have to keep it all in balance.”