Water Pollution Control Documented In Sewer System History

“As Newtown grew, it faced many challenges in controlling groundwater pollution caused by septic failures in the Borough, Sandy Hook Center, and the lakeside communities. Each area has a different underlying issue that precluded long-term reliance on conventional septic systems. The Borough has ‘hardpan’ soils that prevent on-site subsurface disposal; Sandy Hook has a permeable, sandy soil that allows septic waste to contaminate the underlying groundwater; and the building lots in the lakeside communities are too small to support individual disposal systems.”

So begins A History of the Newtown Sewer System — Its Planning, Design, Construction and Operation, a recently published history of the two local municipal sanitary sewer systems, written by Richard Zang, chairman of the town’s Water & Sewer Authority (WSA).

To that introduction, Mr Zang adds, “The state grew impatient waiting for the town to address its septic problems and finally resorted to threats of heavy fines from the attorney general. It took 35 years from the town’s first appropriation for a wastewater study (in 1962), and 28 years from the first state (pollution abatement) order in 1969 for Newtown to begin treating sewage in its own plant in 1997.”

The history, which contains a technically detailed text, photos, maps, charts, and diagrams, explains the origins of the two sewer systems.

The central sewer system that started operation in 1997 was constructed to resolve longstanding groundwater pollution problems caused by failing septic systems. That system serves the Borough, Sandy Hook Center, Fairfield Hills, and Garner Correctional Institution, among other areas. It discharges wastewater to a sewage treatment plant on Commerce Road. 

The Hawleyville sewer system that started operation in 2001 was built to stimulate economic development. Last month, voters at a town meeting agreed to expand that system in seeking to increase its economic development potential. The system discharges wastewater to a regional sewage treatment plant in Danbury.


Quietly Operating On Commerce Road

Although the sewage treatment plant at 24 Commerce Road plays an important role in the public health of the community, the facility gets little public notice due to its location at the end of a long dead-end street in an industrial park.

Mr Zang and Julio Segarra, who is United Water’s project manager for sewer system operations, recently spoke on the complexities of running the town sewage plant, which has won a federal award for the quality of its wastewater processing.

Mr Zang is a retired mechanical engineer who formerly worked for major engineering firms on wastewater treatment projects. A longtime WSA member, he has served as the agency’s chairman since 1997.

Mr Zang explained that his history of the town sewage treatment systems grew out of a compilation and expansion of the annual reports he had written for WSA members.

The WSA formerly was known as the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA). It became the WSA when the town added the management of publicly-owned water supply systems to its charge.

The chairman said that the quality of wastewater treatment at the town sewage plant is “extremely good” based on the facility’s good design. It is designed to process 934,000 gallons of wastewater daily.

To keep the sewer system up to date, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) telemetry/control equipment is being installed at the sewage pumping stations for the central sewer system, he said. That system allows the remote operation of equipment and provides reports on the wastewater conditions at the pumping stations.

Mr Zang explained that the central sewer system has used computerized controls since it began operation. The SCADA equipment represents a modernization of computer controls, he said.

“We’ve been able to maintain and operate the [sewage] plant without asking the town for any supplemental bonding,” Mr Zang said.

In the planned expansion of the Hawleyville sewer system, the town will employ “grinder pumps” in a “low pressure” sewer system as a means to hold down the overall capital costs of sewer system construction. Such pumps would eliminate the need for an expensive a conventional sewage pumping station or stations.

Town officials hope that the expansion of sewer lines in Hawleyville prompts the construction of commercial/industrial facilities at several large undeveloped land parcels in the general vicinity of the intersection of Hawleyville Road and Mt Pleasant Road.

If the central sewer system is someday expanded, the sewage treatment plant site is configured to allow the construction of wastewater cleansing equipment which would double the plant’s processing capacity.  The plant currently operates at less than one-half of its wastewater handling capacity.


Walking Tour Of Treatment Plant

On a recent cold, blustery day, Messrs Zang and Segarra provided a tour of the treatment plant, which operates continuously throughout the year.

The facility is one of the largest local users of electricity to run its equipment, including many pumps. To cover some of the plant’s electrical requirements, the town in 2012 installed a large photovoltaic array there to generate electricity for its operations.

The 11-acre site holds a variety of wastewater cleansing devices that work to purify the collected sewage which enters the property at its “headworks.” Mechanical devices are used to extract foreign objects from wastewater flow there.

The sewage then flows to oxidation ditches where impellers force it to flow through deep ditches at high speed to oxidize the waste. It then flows to circular clarify tanks where mechanical devices expedite water clarification.

Later the wastewater is routed to a filtration building where it trickles through sand filters for yet more clarification. In that building, thin mats of sludge are withdrawn from the wastewater. That sludge is then  trucked away for disposal.

The remaining cleansed water is then discharged. It enters the Pootatuck River, flows to the Housatonic River, after which it enters Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

Mr Zang’s book, A History of the Newtown Sewer System — Its Planning, Design, Construction and Operation is available to the public for reference reading at C.H. Booth Library.

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