Letter: Sewage plant decision shows challenge was a waste

Editor’s note: Mr. McCarthy is correct about the timing of the emails. It is unfortunate that his morning response was overlooked at the bottom of a long string of emails that came in between the time the reporter logged off at about 7 a.m. and logged back in about 2 p.m. after working all night (that’s the work cycle). The story went online after 4 a.m. Feb. 7, and the email arrived 5-plus hours later. The oversight was not called to our attention until Feb. 13. Here is the re-sent email in full:

By David McCarthy (R-District E)

Common Council

To the Editor

A recent story on Nancy’s blog stated that I “did not return a late night email giving him a chance to respond to that allegation.” It is true that I did not respond to an email sent to me at 11:07 p.m. until 9:36 a.m. the following day, but you would never know that, because not one word of my response appears on line. I don’t look at Nancy’s blog unless specifically directed to egregious errors by others, and this is one of those times.

With respect to my earlier comment, “the city will now be forced to spend perhaps in excess of several hundred thousands of dollars to go through a series of legal hearings that will undoubtedly certify that the plant operates at the highest levels of efficiency and safety.” (emphasis added) I am pleased to say that I was completely correct and that the plant has been recertified and does operate at the highest levels of efficiency and safety, and no one can say otherwise. I am also pleased to say that the state was kind enough not to not drag the recertification process out, and so it was completed with only a little over $50,000 wasted instead of the potential for hundreds of thousands.

I hardly call the difference between my earlier statement and the final accounting a discrepancy. My inability to harness psychic powers to predict a set of attorney’s fees, or the length to which the state would go based on the baseless accusations is not to my detriment. I made an honest estimation, which, quite frankly, isn’t that far off. I think that given the absence of any wrongdoing, the attorneys simply did the bare minimum. Had they dragged this out, my estimate may have been all too accurate. By the way, this estimate of fees does not include the staff time, as well as travel and other sundry fees back and forth to Hartford, but I don’t mean to quibble about the number.

The facts remain and speak for themselves. There was not even a charge of impropriety made, and the state has approved the permit. Any and every dollar spent was wasted. Considering what we are dealing with, and the number of awards the plant has received, both on a local and national level, almost any rational person would conclude that this was a well-run plant and that the petition was spurious and a wasteful use of a “whistle-blower” safety in the permit renewal process. This “crying wolf” is potentially more damaging if it prevents a legitimate complaint from being heard down the road.

With respect to the name calling on the part of the individual who has cost the WPCA all of this money, it is a last ditch attempt to save some face, and doesn’t merit further reply. Pointing out the facts is neither a threat, nor should it or could it have discouraged anyone from speaking. The “activist” in question seems to have dragged every person they could to the meeting, and still was unable to make a credible complaint.

If anyone has a question or concern, there are, and always have been, members of the WPCA from both political parties. The baseless claim that there is somehow not equal access to meetings is damaging to our municipal government and is simply untrue. Another member of the WPCA, who have previously been in leadership position within the Democratic Town Committee, has spoken out about this action as wasteful and described the circumstances in which this “petition” was signed as laughable or words to that effect. I think that says it all.

David McCarthy


6 responses to “Letter: Sewage plant decision shows challenge was a waste”

  1. Oldtimer

    Apparently, now that the permit is in hand, McCarthy has not talked to Alvord about all the work Alvord NOW says the plant needs. He is quick to assume a request for a public hearing must be an accusation of some kind. He doesn’t seem to know enough about the process to understand permit renewal time is the best opportunity for the public to ask for DEEP help in solving on-going odor control problems. Notice he makes no effort to show us where the extra “little over $50 thousand” was spent because of the public hearing process, but quotes some anonymous Democrat as critical of the public hearing process in this case.

  2. Mike Mushak

    Happy Valentine’s day to you too, Mr. McCarthy! I am glad you find “no distinction” between $50,000 and “hundreds of thousands”. That is an astounding claim you make.
    We applaud the granting of the DEEP permit to the treatment plant, but lets call a spade a spade here. No one made baseless accusations. The DEEP, in language in the permit, made it CLEAR that the issues the public brought up, which were unexplained strong odors, the lack of proper maintenance on the flood levee, and the lack of emergency plans with proper public notification, were issues not covered by the permit (although that is still debatable), but they did NOT rule on the validity of the issues nor did they have an opinion about those individuals bringing them to their attention in the hearing.
    They did NOT say they were baseless claims, as you continue to claim, but that they were just not covered by the permit. A huge distinction you are ignoring at your peril, as you continue to go around libelling folks and telling lies. Please stop this nonsense that you are promoting ad nauseum to attack good people who have legitimate concerns. This behavior not fitting of any public official in Norwalk. Shame on you.
    The hearing was a legally sanctioned process to get questions answered, which were not getting answered to the satisfaction of many folks who understand the gravity of the issues involved with the efficient operation of the plant, its impact on the fragile harbor environment and local industries, and the need for more transparency and accountability from our own DPW on matters related to it.
    The repeated dismissive claims that Mr. Alvord made to members of the public who complained of eye-watering strong odors blocks away from the plant, and which may affect multi-million dollar developments going up downwind from the plant, that odors are from “low tide” even when the tide was high, is enough to send up alarm bells to anyone.
    Let’s not forget that OMI, the company that still operates the plant, was raided by the Criminal Investigative Division of the EPA in 2001, soon after the signing of the 20 year contract to operate the plant that we are still under, as seen here, http://www.waterindustry.org/New%20Projects/OMI-3.htm. The raid was to seize records connected to alleged contract violations totalling close to $300,000.
    Also let’s not forget that many of these “awards” that Mr. Mccarthy mentions repeatedly are standard industry awards that are actively sought by the contractor for self-serving reasons, and usually granted at industry conventions where the folks voting on them have likely never even been to the site or done any inspections. The truth is, at the same time the plant was “award-winning” as Mr.Mccarthy loves to tout, it was actually under a state consent decree to clean up its dismal record of raw sewage discharges into our precious harbor, as seen here http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Aging-and-failing-wastewater-plants-sending-1308610.php#page-2 with this passage quoting Dennis Greci, chief of the DEEP municipal wasterwater division:
    “Norwalk’s system discharged raw sewage 28 times in 2010, mostly in periods of heavy rain. A ruptured main pipe and equipment failure contributed to three of the incidents.

    When these types of failures in any system cause sewage discharges, the DEP looks to consent decrees.

    “In these cases we tell towns, `OK, guys, you screwed up. Tell us how you plan to fix it, and then fix it,”’ said Greci. “We prefer to get consent decrees, where we say, `We’ve got enough to whap you upside the head. Take care of this.’ We establish realistic timelines and accomplishable goals in our consent orders. We know what the realities are.”

    So while the contractor was winning industry awards with little or no inspections involved, we were actually “screwing up” and dumping raw sewage into the Sound, at a rate of 28 times in 2010 alone. This caused shellfish beds to be closed, affecting our vital oyster industry as well as boating and fishing. In Mr. McCarthy’s opinion, this is a “stellar” performance.
    I would hate to see what he thinks a dismal performance is that might warrant a public hearing in a permit process. Complete failure of the plant perhaps, with total destruction of our harbor, ruining the multi-million dollar oyster and recreational boating industries, and the hundreds of jobs those involve? Not to mention the impact on the city’s reputation and tax base. This is serious stuff, that does not warrant petty retaliation from Mr. McCarthy against those he sees as challenging his authority, as if this is not a publicly owned treatment plant with a checkered past of raw sewage discharges and criminal investigations, with unexplained strong odors, deteriorating levee, and no apparent system to distribute emergency information. The public owns the plant, has invested hundreds of millions in it, and it is therefore subject to public oversight including a simple public hearing in a permit application, a totally legal sanctioned process. What part of that statement does Mr. McCarthy not get?
    Last, I demand Mr. McCarthy produce the official documentation of the actual $50,000 he says this hearing cost the city, an amount that he originally said would be “hundreds of thousands”, a comment clearly designed to threaten the public in a shocking display of official intimidation. What Mr. McCarthy should be spending his time on is addressing the real concerns of the public, including those issues brought up in the hearing which are still not resolved, and investigating the true performance of our treatment plant.
    Remember, the plant is under state decree to clean up its act after years of illegal discharges (28 in 2010 alone), hardly an “award-winning” plant with a “stellar” performance as Mr. McCarthy continues to claim. Does he think the above articles I linked to are just made up stories? The fact that DEEP issued the permit does not make all of those serious issues just go away in some miraculous bureaucratic magic trick, which Mr. McCarthy apparently believes can happen. We obviously needed the permit and were going to get it, as the alternative was impossible to imagine, but instead of a healthy process where the public’s concerns were addressed in a professional and responsible manner, we were ridiculed, called names, made fun of, and blamed for just telling the truth in a shocking display of official harrassment by both Dave Mccarthy and Hal Alvord.

    I am embarrassed for our great city right now. The public deserves better than this, especially from Mccarthy, Chair of the Public Works Committee, and we deserve an apology. Hal Alvord can be dealt with accordingly by the mayor, who is his boss.

  3. Suzanne

    Mr. McCarthy, that petition is your constituency calling. Whether you like it or not, the public is a part of this process. I can’t believe the expense of this legitimate petition was any greater than the countless acts of “legitimate” governance you have applied in your terms as a City Council member that have cost us, the taxpayers, a lot of our hard earned money. Haven’t you been reading anything? The plant got those awards by, basically, awarding itself through an organization that awards based on their benefit, not the public’s. In addition, Mr. Alvord has now come out to say why the smells are so acrid (and, by the way, that would not be because of “low tide”) and why the plant needs a new filter at the cost of….. Read on and it is peanuts compared to this petition. As usual, your disdain for the PUBLIC process required for any given expenditure of TAXPAYER money speaks loud and clear. It is a shame that after all of these years, you cannot seem to get that nor respect the constituency that you SERVE.

  4. Oldtimer

    McCarthy sees no problem with the multi-million dollar boondoggle on Rowayton Ave, but the cost of a simple public hearing on the renewal of the permit for the troubled sewer plant gets him so upset he can’t count and feels a need to attack the people who asked for a hearing, instead of dealing with the problems raised during that hearing. Isn’t that what the public works committee is supposed to be doing ?

  5. cc-rider

    I largely agree with many of Mike Mushak’s sentiments. Can he please find a way to stop writing novellas instead of comments? It does nothing to further his cause. Get to the point my man!

  6. Mike Mushak

    Thanks, CC rider, but I know of no other way to counter the corruption of process we have in DPW and Dave McCarthy right now, except to put forth all the real facts for all to read in “novellas”, or what I call essays. Whether it was the lies about the Rowayton Ave.boondoggle, or the lies and intimidation over the DEEP hearing, we basically have a Chris Christie-style syndrome here of lies and retaliation by our own officials against the public. There is potential here for serious charges to be made. Not cool.

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