New Milford's 13-Town Sewer District sets up 2-tier pricing

New Milford's 13-Town Sewer District sets up 2-tier pricing

The Sewer Commission has set up a two-tier pricing system members hope will reduce the burden on the sewer plant by discouraging outside-the-region haulers from bringing septic waste to the plant.

The commission created a 13-town district in southern Litchfield and northern Fairfield counties from which it will accept septic waste at a lower charge, while charging higher rates to haulers from farther away.

Commissioners said a plant of New Milford’s size ideally would handle 18,000 gallons of septic waste a day, in addition to flows from sewer lines in the town system. But earlier this spring, the plant routinely accepted much more than that amount, and on one day accepted 70,000 gallons.

Earlier this month, the commission capped daily septage at 25,000 gallons.

Septic-waste haulers from the 13 towns will pay $75 for every 1,000 gallons discharged at the plant. Haulers from outside the district will be charged $115 per 1,000 gallons.

During its meeting Monday night, the panel discussed requiring haulers to note where and when they picked up septic waste in an effort to catch “dirty haulers,” who sometimes de-water the waste and unload sludge that strains the plant.

Interim Chief Operator Mike Ducey said the plant accepted 1.2 million gallons of septage in May.

High levels of ammonia back to top

The plant is experiencing high levels of ammonia, owing partly to the amount of septage taken, which must be removed from the system by introducing additional “nitrifying” bacteria. Ducey said he might need to lower the ceiling on daily septage if the ammonia problem persists.

“The system usually recovers pretty quickly, but as of now it’s not recovering,” Ducey said. “This has only transpired over the past couple weeks.”

Ducey said he is not sure why the existing bacteria aren’t doing the job.

“If that doesn’t work, we may need to stop accepting septage until those bugs come back,” he said.

Concern over the high amounts of septic waste being brought to the plant reached a peak last month, when former plant Superintendent Mike Finoia raised an alarm. He threatened to resign over the issue, noting the tremendous strain on plant operations could threaten the plant’s state operating permit.

Although the commission agreed to reducedthe septic load, and Finoia did not formally submit a resignation, it was accepted by the Gronbach administration.

Sewer commissioners, who oversee the Water Pollution Control Authority, will be able to repay a $1.2 million debt to the town this year. The debt was incurred when the town sold bonds to finance the $22 million expansion of plant in 2012.