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Norwich, Conn., to Soon Begin Building $200M Replacement for Old Wastewater Plant

Thu September 14, 2023 - Northeast Edition
Norwich Bulletin

The largest construction project in Norwich, Conn.'s history is getting close to starting, and the city's utility customers may pay a higher rate for their sewer service to help fund it.

At a city council meeting Sept. 5, officials with Norwich Public Utilities (NPU) and an engineering firm gave a presentation on the community's Wastewater Treatment Plant replacement.

The project, expected to cost $200 million, will largely replace the current facility on Hollyhock Island, which was built in 1955 and has lasted far beyond its intended lifespan, said Craig Wagner, an engineer of Boston-based CDM Smith.

Construction on the new treatment plant is expected to start later this fall, and will continue for five years, Wagner told the Norwich Bulletin.

Though the wastewater facility has had multiple upgrades over the years, most recently in 2018, the current condition of the plant is poor, though well maintained, he added. It also is inadequate in multiple categories, including safety, odor control and reliability.

Modern Wastewater Facility to Handle 20 Million Gallons Per Day

The Bulletin reported Sept. 9 that some of the project goals of the replacement plant, according to Wagner, include:

  • Improving nitrogen removal to prevent algae blooms and save money on nitrogen credits from the state.
  • Incorporating modern technology that is up to code, freeing the plant from its reliance on discontinued parts.
  • Improving resiliency, so that when flooding, mechanical or electrical issues occur, the entire wastewater treatment system does not shut down.

Other upgrades include an automated ultra-violet (UV) light system to help with disinfection, and increasing the amount of clarifiers at the plant, Wagner added.

Two challenges during the construction process include creating all new structures on a pile system and maintaining the function of the current wastewater plant through the process, according to an NPU overview.

The construction work will include a formal closure of the Hollyhock Island landfill, Wagner explained, adding that trees and brush are to be cleared, and the landfill will be capped to modern standards.

NPU General Manager Chris LaRose told the Bulletin that the capped land also could be used for solar power uses in the future.

The completed wastewater treatment plant will be able to handle 20 million gal. of wastewater per day, as opposed to 15 million gal. currently. While there are no plans to expand sewer service in existing neighborhoods at the moment, Norwich wants to offer the service to other towns, including Bozrah and Franklin, LaRose said.

Norwich Residents to Get Hit With Sewer Rate Increase

Funding for the project will come from Connecticut's Clean Water Act. A total of $72 million is grant funding, while the rest will be provided from a 2 percent interest loan to be repaid over the next 20 years by increasing the sewer rate by 12.1 percent over the next eight years, starting in November.

The rate increases are subject to the Norwich Board of Public Utilities Commissioners and Sewer Authority approval, LaRose said in speaking to the local news outlet.

The Norwich commissioners are scheduled to review rate increases for services at its Sept. 26 meeting. If approved, the changes will be effective Nov. 1, said Chris Riley, manager of the city's communications and community outreach office.

In the coming weeks, if all goes well, Wagner said that NPU will submit final applications to secure an authorization award from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to start the treatment plant construction.

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