[Waterbury Republican-American] Plymouth seeks state help with water line

February 9, 2011

Article as it appeared in the Waterbury REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

PLYMOUTH — The town is seeking the state legislature’s help to pay for a water line to serve several homes on Harwinton Avenue and Burr Road where contaminated wells have forced residents to use bottled drinking water provided by the state since last summer.

Mayor Vincent Festa Jr. joined Sen. Jason C. Welch, R-Bristol, in Hartford on Monday to ask for money. Welch, Festa and Councilman Martin Sandshaw testified before the state Planning and Development Committee about the need to provide potable water to the residents, whose wells are contaminated with heavy metals.

“Today was flat out asking the legislature for help,” Welch said. “That is the fastest way (to get funding) but I don’t know how promising that is because of budget constraints.”

The Department of Environmental Protection, which last year found high levels of lead, cadmium, arsenic or nickel in nine out of 18 wells in the triangular neighborhood between Burr Road and Route 6, just south of the Plymouth reservoir, is offering filtration systems for the homes. But residents and town officials are pushing for a more expensive water line. Festa said that the Town Council agreed last month that the availability of safe drinking water is “a priority in the community.”

No source for the contamination has been found.

The filtration systems the DEP offered are a more immediate and less expensive solution, but homeowners are worried because they believe they are inconvenient and will lower their house values.

Welch said the DEP is restricted to providing the “least expensive alternative” to correct the problem.

Patrick Bowe, director of the DEP’s remediation division, said filtration systems would cost $430,700, compared to a water main for at least $532,500. Festa said the water line could cost as much as $1 million, depending on the makeup of the ground in the area. Exact figures have not been calculated.

Bowe presented the options at a Town Council meeting in December, when he said the DEP would pay for the filters and their installation in 18 homes. After five years, maintenance costs would be transferred either to the town or the homeowners. He said the units cost about $12,000 to operate over their 20-year life.

Welch and Festa are trying to find a way for the DEP to apply the cost of the filters toward that of a water line. They hope the state could make up the difference. “We are going to knock on every door,” Welch said. “This is a serious issue.”

If the legislature does not provide the money, Festa said the town may be able to add the project to a $19 million bonding package that is being crafted to update town infrastructure.

Welch said that at a meeting he had last week with Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, and the DEP, he was told towns in a similar position three or four years ago are just getting their funding now. “They are saying it is going to take years for that money to shake loose,” he said.