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Southington on Verge of Phosphorus Deal with DEEP to Save Millions

After nearly a year of battling a new federal EPA regulation regarding phosphorus removal, it appears the town and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are close on a deal that would save Southington over $18 million.

New federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations on phosphorus have threatened to cost the town $20 million or more in upgrades to the Southington Water Pollution Control Facility, but the town is on the verge of a deal that could help clean phosphorus from the Quinnipiac River at just a fraction of the cost.

Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback and Town Council Chairman John Dobbins said Friday that plans are not finalized yet, but the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection appears poised to grant a five-year permit to the wastewater facility that would provide a slight leniency and save the town more than $18 million.

“It’s still not final, but we are very optimistic that the DEEP will stand true to their word,” Brumback said. “They told us they’d give us a permit for five years that allow us to move to a 0.7 (mg/L) number. This represents an elimination of 75 percent.”

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Phosphorus removal, and costs associated with it, first came to light in January when Southington officials announced that the town would be looking to challenge a requirement that would force the Water Pollution Control Facility to make renovations that would reduce phosphorus levels to 0.2 mg/L in an effort to clean up the Quinnipiac River.

The requirement is part of that is overseen by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said.

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Officials immediately came together with other towns including Meriden and Wallingford to fight the standards, however, saying it would cost more than $20 million to implement the requirements with no guarantee it would provide a solution.

Brumback said the latest development would mean “substantial savings” for the community while still addressing the problem, however.

“It takes us from having to spend approximately $18 million in capital and $250,000 to $300,000 per year in operational costs to between $35,000 and $50,000 per year in operational costs with no capital,” Brumback said. “We are hoping it will still have a positive impact for environment.”

Under the plan, the state DEEP would review the process in five years and if there are any additional issues, the town would have four more years to make necessary upgrades to address the problem. The town will still meet with DEEP officials in November and early December before finalizing a deal.

Dobbins said Friday that he credits a joint effort between the communities, along with additional towns such as Danbury joining in the effort, as the reason the town is nearing an agreement.

“Was well worth time and effort from initial towns banding together, getting Danbury and other municipalities interested in this. It’s what got the DEEP to sit down at the table and discuss a compromise,” he said.

But Dobbins also cautions that the deal is not done yet and there’s still more work to be done.

“We are very optimistic that this will go through, but nothing in stone yet so as a town, we still need to be guarded,” he said.

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