Norwalk: Voice your concerns about sewage treatment plant at hearing

Correction, 5 a.m. Tuesday, application number; 2 p.m., Monday – contact info for DEEP

NORWALK, Conn. – East Norwalk residents who object to the odors wafting from Norwalk’s sewage treatment plant have an opportunity to make their opinions count in an upcoming public hearing. So can anyone who is concerned at how close the plant was to being flooded during Superstorm Sandy.

The Dec. 2 Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) public hearing on Norwalk’s permit to discharge effluent into the Norwalk River was requested by 30 Norwalk residents in a petition presented to the state by Norwalk environmental activist Diane Lauricella, who said she is a member of the mayor’s Water Quality Committee.

Norwalk is applying to have its permit renewed for five years. The city is permitted to discharge 18 million gallons of treated wastewater a day into the Norwalk River.

Those signing the petition include Tony D’Andrea, former chairman of the Harbor Management Commission, Shellfish Commission Chairman Pete Johnson, owners of nearby marinas and people who live near the harbor.

A minimum of 25 people were required to sign a petition to request a hearing, Lauricella said. She said in a Sept. 16 letter to DEEP that she would have had hundreds more signatures on the petition if there had been more time.

Lauricella said there have been odors emanating from the plant whenever a truck arrives to pick up sludge and the garage door is opened.

“There have been real concerns expressed about how the sewage treatment plant operates, including its ability to handle discharges during storm emergencies, and other factors,” she said in the letter. “In addition, a public hearing would allow the public to be informed about the details of the discharge permit and foster future understanding and understanding of important infrastructure improvements.”

It’s a question of having a clean harbor, raising property values and protecting the health and quality of life of Norwalk citizens, the petition said.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, in the Public Works Center cafeteria at 15 South Smith St. Lauricella said she is seeking a larger venue for the hearing and that it may be rescheduled.

Anyone who would like to make a comment without going to the hearing can contact DEEP by:

• Sending an email to [email protected]

• Faxing 860-424-4052

• Mailing a letter to

Office of Adjudications, DEEP Headquarters

79 Elm St.

Hartford, CT 06106

The deadline is the close of business on Dec. 11. You must mention that you are contacting DEEP concerning application number 201001482.

The application is available for inspection at DEEP Headquarters, located at 79 Elm St. in Hartford. Questions can be emailed to [email protected] or you can call Ann Straut Esden at 860-424-3137.

If you think it stinks, write a letter and let the state know.


7 responses to “Norwalk: Voice your concerns about sewage treatment plant at hearing”

  1. M Allen

    MikeMush – the floor is yours. Keep it civil?

  2. Casey Smith

    I’m mildly curious about this issue and have a bunch of questions….
    What would happen if the petitioners succeed in their efforts to have the permit renewal denied because of the smell? Would the City end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines because it is operating in “violation” until someone comes up with a better design or solution? Or will the treatment plant close down and we just go back to the tried and true septic tank system?
    Super Storm Sandy was quite a gal, that’s for sure. And the plant almost was flooded. No one is denying that. Granted, it wasn’t fun on any level, but is this concern a basis for advocating moving the sewage treatment plant someplace else? And if so, where? Manrisa? Norden Place? Cranbury Park? Taylor Farm? Where would it go where there wouldn’t be someone living nearby? Of course, that brings one right back to the issue of when was the plant built and were the residences there before it was built?
    And my last question is what alternative plans are being offered to prevent the treatment plant from having to do an overflow discharge during a major storm event? I know the State just finished the storm water retention basin by Exit 15, but that will only deal with run off from 95 and the 7 extension. Before the water just went into the drains and into the river. So that may help a tiny bit. What kind of solutions are going to be offered to deal with an overflow during a storm? Sealing the storm drains? Telling people not to use their bathrooms? Building retention basins? What do other communities do?
    I’m just curious because I want to know what Plan B is if the permit is not renewed. Also, I was under the apparently very mistaken impression that the water quality in the Norwalk River was actually improving. My bad.

  3. dlauricella

    For clarification, the intent of the public’s request for a CTDEEP hearing was to allow open, transparent discussion about valid ideas and concerns related to the waste water treatment plant system without fear of retribution or intimidation experienced for several years during the last administration. The citizens have the right to offer special conditions to ensure improved operation.

    The request for a water discharge renewal permit public hearing is a mechanism included in the state statutes (CT General Statute 22a-430) in order to make sure that permits that affect local commerce, health and safety are approved with reasonable due diligence.

    The petitioners are not planning to advise denial of the permit, just to ensure that our valid concerns are included by the CTDEEP in a list of conditions added to the permit in force right now. Please note that the actual discharge permit ended in 2010 and the City has been allowed to operate under its old permit until this update is approved.

    The hearing on December 2nd at 6 pm at 15 South Smith Street in the DPW Center cafeteria is a teachable moment and an important time for citizens to speak!

    This request was an effort to shine a light on an important City function. We have found that several crucial city Boards, Commissions and Council Committees were not even given a chance to offer their official input to the DPW staff, including the Shellfish and Harbor Management Commissions; of great concern because the citizens have a right to expect open coordination and a team approach.

    So many of us take this important system for granted when we flush our toilets or wash our hands in a local restaurant.

    Running a sewage treatment plant in an old industrial City is not an easy thing, and many good improvements have and are being made and planned for the future. However, there is a need to include the public’s view and to ensure that solutions to valid concerns are handled in a timely fashion.

    Citizens and businesses from across Norwalk in all neighborhoods use the vital and important services of the municipal sanitary sewage treatment system including all pump stations and miles of pipes. The roughly 22% of citizens that have their own private septic systems still can have a say as they have to help partially pay for the operation of the treatment plant through their taxes and also enjoy the harbors and rivers of the City affected by pump stations, storm sewers and discharges.

    During storms, there are still parts of Norwalk’s historic City where the storm water and sanitary sewer pipes combine discharges into the treatment plant and at times cause sewer bypasses that may include chlorinated raw sewage.

    Up for permit standards discussion are items such as the treatment plant’s ability to handle eminent storms and sea level rise, chemical parameters, sludge management, flow rates, spill prevention and control, enforcement, etc.

  4. Tim K

    I agree with Casey Smith – what are the alternatives to an award-winning treatment plant (per The Hour editorial) and what is the point of this article/commentary? Harbor Commission, Department of Aquaculture, and Health Department have all written letters of support for permit reissuance according to DEP. Let’s get rid of the treatment plant and have an environmental issue – that really makes a lot of sense! What exactly are Diane’s suggestions to improve the plant (other than an opportunity to hear oneself speak) and the overused buzz words of ‘transparency’ and perhaps ‘environmental justice’? What exactly is her ‘say’ about what to do about sea rise level, chemical parameters, sludge management, flow control, etc. because I can’t tell what the issues are!

  5. Casey Smith

    I spent several months in the non-touristy parts of Mexico back in the 1980s. I never, ever take a working sewer system for granted, believe me.
    Friends lived in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport for a couple of years. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about sewer bypasses. The only things we didn’t have were the “twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was” and I’m kinda glad, actually…
    Okay, you say the point of the public hearing is not to request that the permit be denied. So, it’s to tell the State that the plant’s been operating since 2010 without a current license? Is that because DPW didn’t file for a renewal? Or is it to have a discussion about the fact that sewage treatment smells, just like tidal mud flats smell on hot days at low tide. It seems to me that it kind of comes with the territory.
    I’m not quite sure what one does about extreme weather events. I suppose we could relocate the plant on some kind of elevated platform, like under the Yankee Doodle Bridge superstructure or perhaps put it in a chamber below the surface. Still, catastrophic stuff happens.
    I keep hearing about “transparency”. Is the process more complicated than having a State inspection resulting in either a pass or a fail? If it’s a pass, we’re good. If it’s a fail, well, there’s work that needs to be done. Who is being opaque and why? I thought the Bureau of Aquaculture supervised the oyster beds. Are they having a problem with the plant? If the Plant is not proposing anything new then it’s just an overdue license renewal.

  6. Debora

    The point is to address requests for improvement, not to have the permit denied. Even award winners may have room for improvement. Why the hostility to a mechanism that is already legally available and clearly desired by at least some of the citizenry? Is there any downside to discussing this instead of assuming that things are”good enough?

  7. Casey Smith

    “It’s a question of having a clean harbor, raising property values and protecting the health and quality of life of Norwalk citizens, the petition said.”
    “…the public’s request for a CTDEEP hearing was to allow open, transparent discussion about valid ideas and concerns related to the waste water treatment plant system without fear of retribution or intimidation experienced for several years during the last administration. The citizens have the right to offer special conditions to ensure improved operation.”
    I have nothing against improvements, but the above statement implies that our harbor is dirty, property values are plummeting and the health and quality of our residents is in danger.
    As for the second quote, I’ll leave it up to you to decide what it means.

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