August 15, 2020

Sound View Septic Cost-Sharing Proposals Challenged at Tuesday Night’s Update

The audience at Tuesday’s Septic Public Update listened intently to the proposals presented by the WPCA.

OLD LYME — Sentiments were strong at the Coastal Wastewater Project public update on Tuesday, July 16, as members of the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) presented plans to replace individual septic tanks with sewer systems in the Sound View Beach neighborhood.  The sewage is to be pumped through East Lyme and Waterford to New London’s treatment facility.

Around 100 residents, many from Sound View and neighboring beach communities, listened to a slide presentation by WPCA chairman Richard Prendergast, followed by a question and answer session that ran until 9 p.m.  The presentation, which includes cost estimates and a timeline, can be viewed at this link on the Town of Old Lyme website.

Members of the WPCA, who are volunteers appointed by Old Lyme Board of Selectmen, stayed behind after the meeting to answer additional questions and encouraged residents to contact them via email links given on the Town of Old Lyme website.

Prendergast and WPCA members explained the history of septic system studies along the shoreline, state statutes governing the use of Clean Water Act funds, administrative orders from the state’s Department of Public Health (DPH) and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP), and the 2016 finding of a Public Health Nuisance by the Town of Old Lyme Department of Health.  This progression of events requires the town to move forward with either plans to address the waste water pollution or continue with state-approved studies to figure out a solution.

The problem is density-based — if sewage is to be treated through a septic system and leach field, DPH recommends about four times the undisturbed, well-draining yard space that is typical in beach communities.  Multiple inadequate lots create a community pollution problem that regulatory agencies require towns to address.

The neighboring chartered private beach associations of Old Lyme Shores, Old Colony, Miami Beach, which — unlike Sound View Beach — have the authority to negotiate with New London on sewage capacity, have been moving forward with self-financing of sewer systems and design plans. 

Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority Richard Prendergast addresses the audience during Tuesday evening’s septic update.

Prendergast explained that although the Hawks Nest Beach community has been approved by state agencies for additional study, the long-term expectation is that inadequate waste water treatment systems will be fixed.  Future actions decided for Hawks Nest will not be added to Sound View Beach costs.

While it is proposed that ratepayers using the system will bear the expense of connection and installation, which they can repay over time based on 2 percent financing, the Town of Old Lyme is the responsible entity to bond $9.5 million to fund the Sound View Beach project.  The total cost of the project will be offset in part, by the combination of a Clean Water Fund state grant of 25 percent, a donation by Connecticut Water Company of a portion of pipes and materials, and careful design of the system, reducing the actual cost to $7.4 million according to the WPCA. 

Costs related to the chartered beach associations are not included in the town bond.

The assessment formula is explained in the  WPCA’s June 10, 2019 Minutes, which can be read at this link.  At a minimum, each dwelling in the project zone will pay a $6,000 connection fee.  Long-term project installation costs are covered by the “betterment fee,” which can be paid over 20 years with 2 percent financing.  This fee would be $15,000 for the typical small house, $25,000 for the typical average-sized house of 1,242 sq. ft. and more for larger homes or multi-unit dwellings.  Users also would pay an annual sewer use fee, which was listed at $430 in WPCA’s presentation.

Residents in the project area will not have the option to opt in or out of sewer lines — existing septic tanks will be removed or collapsed and leach fields converted.  Prendergast pointed out that this would free up yard space for parking and other activities since these would damage the functioning leach field required for a septic system.  Property owners also would no longer have the liability or expense of repairing a failed septic system, which can cost $10,000 or more, or having their septic tank pumped out at a minimum of every three to five years.

Many questions were raised during the Q & A session following the presentation.

The majority of comments and questions Tuesday evening revolved around sharing of costs between the project area and the rest of town.  While Prendergast said the WPCA felt that it had developed the most economically viable proposal for the Town of Old Lyme, Frank Pappalardo summarized the sentiments of several in the audience, saying, “This is a town public works project that will benefit the town, why should the three streets on Sound View Beach be expected to pay for it all?”

“We’re not a private beach association, why should we be singled out to pay?,” said Robin Duffield, whose husband’s grandfather built their Sound View Beach home in the early 1950s. “It’s like taxation without representation. If they did the same 20-year loan at 2 percent and divided it among all households in town, it would be very little money per house. Instead, it’s going to cost three streets worth of people $50,000, on average, per household, and the rest of town pays absolutely nothing.”

Duffield, who lives in Killingworth and serves on that town’s public health committee, explained after Tuesday’s meeting that similar septic systems in Rogers Lake and other areas of town would also need to be addressed.

“Rogers Lake could be next, anyone who lives along the estuaries or marshes, they all have similar septic systems. It’s setting a precedent for dividing parts of town and putting the bill on them completely,” she said.  “They are putting the bill on people who they feel can afford it.”

This was the second of two public presentations by the WPCA before the planned town referendum, which was set July 17 by the board of selectmen. Voting will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 13, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., at Cross Lane Fire Station. 

Information about absentee ballots will be available from the Old Lyme Town Clerk’s office next week either by visiting the office in person or calling 860-434-1605, ext.220.



  1. Why should the taxpayers of Old Lyme pay for sewer systems for the beaches, the owners of
    these properties are the ones who benefit from it. If the taxpayers foot the bill for the sewer systems then shouldn’t they also foot the bill for septic system replacements when they are needed. I fail to see how the sewer systems benefits the town. It does benefit the beach homeowner and will most certainly up the value of their property, it does not benefit the rest of the taxpayers.

  2. Steven A Ross says

    Sound View property owners are the only ones who will benefit from sewers so suggesting that this is a town wide project makes no sense. Would Sound View property owners share the cost for a new septic system on properties on other areas of town, of course not.
    Unlike Fire Protection, Police and ambulance which benefit all residents, sewers benefit only the properties to which they are connected. There is zero benefit to anyone other than the property owners in Sound View from the installation and operation of a sewer system that connects to their properties.
    The taxpayers in general paid nothing toward the cost for Point O’ Woods sewer system and the Old Colony, Old Lyme Shores and Miami Beach Association are paying the entire cost of their installations and operation. Only the proposed pump station will be cost shared but not by all taxpayers, only those getting the sewer systems.

  3. Sandra Ziemba says

    I had to sell my home on Swan Avenue because the threat of sewers looming over me, would bankrupt me. Like a good citizen and resident of Old Lyme, I paid my taxes on time and volunteered relentlessly contributing to the community I so loved. I’ve seen many projects occur over the many years I’ve lived in Old Lyme, and reveled in the fact that we had such a wonderful town. However, for many, many years the Town has neglected the beach area and considered it unworthy. I joined the SV Commission, SVB Association, the Federation of Beaches, the Flower Committee, the Events Committee, and always raising my hand to help our beach community efforts of improvements. And yet the Town spent very little money to help in improvements. With all the many projects that went on in the Town, none of our beach community complained about money spent. Now it’s the Town’s place to get with the program. It is your duty to stop ignoring the beach community and start helping to ignite the “diamond in the rough” you so truly ignore. Although I no longer live in Old Lyme, my heart will always be in Old Lyme and your responsibility lies in helping that community. Do your Duty as elected officials and make some substantial contributions for the waste water improvement of our Sound View shoreline.

  4. Stephanie L says

    The taxpayers from the beach communities have paid for many things that did not benefit them directly. The biggest example is our fantastic education system.

    • Jan Magnussen says

      It is true that Old Lyme has a great educational system. I have also over the years heard the constant complaints from many of the beach property owners over the cost of the school budget, and that they would like not to contribute to it since they and their children have no benefit from it. However, let us not forget that many of these beach homes are academic rentals during most of the year. Therefore we have tenants there, many with children that obviously benefit from the school system. That cost is carried by all property owners in town.
      A direct improvement of anyone’s own property should be paid for by the owner. Not a difficult concept, although I understand that it is a financial hardship the same way having to pay to replace your septic system when it fails. At least that will no longer be a concern.

  5. Sound View is a public beach and it will benefit the town’s taxpayers when businesses move to Sound View when there are sewers installed. But it is unfair to expect Sound View residents to foot the bill. Most working class families cannot afford such a cost. Why can’t the cost be shared by all the taxpayers? Every resident in Old Lyme will benefit from clean water and businesses that will able to move into Hartford Avenue. Think about it.

  6. The Connecticut General Statute Chapter 103, Municipal Sewage Systems, establishes the legal authority for Municipal Water Pollution Control Authorities. Sec. 7-249 of that Chapter, Assessment of Benefits, establishes the framework for determining the benefit assessment by the Water Pollution Control Authority. It does include limits on those assessments and establishes a method for appeal. But, it is clear that the properties directly benefiting from the installation of sewage systems are responsible for the costs for those benefits.

  7. RICHARD BYER says

    To those who believe that this is just a “beach issue” and shouldn’t be a concern of all residents of Old Lyme, perhaps the same could be said about the educational system (which typically represents about 60% of a town’s budgetary costs). With that type of thinking, the beach community should contemplate seceding from the town-proper, thus saving on their tax dollars which support the educational budget, as well as other town services.

    Every town can pick and choose what is important to the welfare of all its members, so vote thoughtfully on August 13th!

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