Capitol Connection: Wastewater Treatment & Municipal Burdens

October 14, 2014

All too often, Connecticut cities and towns are burdened by municipal mandates created by state government and signed into law in Hartford. Some of these mandates are intentionally ordered, but sometimes burdens get placed on towns indirectly. If a law is altered for one purpose, changes could have unforeseen repercussions in other areas.

This recently happened with legislation passed this year concerning the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) recommended revisions to state statutes. This well intentioned legislation was designed to strengthen our public health system. However, one section made changes to the standards governing “environmental laboratories” – and now local wastewater treatment facilities may be faced with huge new expenses as a result.

Historically, Connecticut town Water Pollution Control Facilities (WPCFs) have been able to run their own testing on water, since these facilities have their own licensed operators with training and certification from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). But given the way the new law is written and being interpreted, town WPCFs would not be able to conduct such testing on their own – and they would now be required to submit all their usual tests to “environmental laboratories” that hold licenses from the Department of Public Health.

According to state Water Pollution Control organizations, it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to have outside labs conduct the same tests local WPCFs have always done on their own. Each municipal and private facility affected could be faced with increased costs of anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000 annually! These new expenses would not only burden towns, but also the wastewater rate payers who will ultimately be responsible for funding these requirements.

This wastewater issue could potentially hurt Connecticut towns and taxpayers if not addressed. That’s why state officials and legislators must now work together to eliminate any confusing language in the law.

Legislation often has many layers, and one small change can have a significant impact in certain situations. In this case, it was not the intention of the legislature to create an added municipal burden. The right thing to do is make sure none of our towns are penalized as a result of a new legal interpretation. We need immediate clarification as well as a permanent fix to protect our cities and towns across the state.

For more information about this issue and status updates visit the Connecticut Association of Water Pollution Control Authorities website at or the Connecticut Water Pollution Abatement Association website at