Just one month after joining forces with area towns to fight back against stringent and expensive phosphorus regulations that could cost the town in excess of $30 million, the fight for “more realistic expectations” has appeared to turn in Southington’s favor.
Garry Brumback said the town appears poised to be eligible for grant funding and has been granted an extension to discuss the proposed regulations regarding phosphorus removal with the state Department of Energy and Environmental protection.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” Brumback said Monday night. “The state legislature has already agreed to change the word nitrogen to nutrient. It’s a move that would open up a possibility for the town to receive a 30 percent reimbursement.”
In January, 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.
Due to the strict requirements – other area towns including Meriden and Wallingford are required to reduce levels even further – the three communities have .
“The expectations are unrealistic,” John Dobbins, Southington Town Councilman and chairman of the council’s sewer committee, said earlier this year. “It’s something that could cost us millions with no real promise of a solution.”
Brumback said that if the town were to have a less strict set of requirements, such as reducing levels to a 0.7 mg/L, it would reduce startup costs to as little as $50,000.
But with the Quinnipiac River suffering from high levels of algae in past years, which can disturb the environment, Betsey Wingfield, bureau chief at the Water Protection and Land Use Bureau of the DEEP, said the requirements have already been reduced as much as possible.
Still, it appears that after legislators demanded earlier this month that the DEEP “work more closely with stakeholders,” there could be some give yet.
Brumback said he spoke with DEEP officials on Monday afternoon and is anticipating a letter that would “extend the conversation” regarding a less stringent standard as towns work to help meet the new federal requirements. He said the town is all for the clean up, but not at the costs it would take.
“There’s just no guarantee is works. We are happy to comply, but would like to see a more complete study done on how it will affect levels in the Quinnipiac,” Brumback said earlier this year.
“We are going to continue to push forward on that front, both legislatively and in working with the DEEP,” he said.