Save Westport Now: Stop Hiawatha’s Sewer Request

Valerie Seiling Jacobs, co-chair of Save Westport Now, sends this letter:

The Westport Water Pollution Control Authority, which is comprised of our 3 selectman, is meeting tomorrow morning (Thursday, July 21, 8:30 a.m., Town Hall auditorium) to decide whether to allow a developer to extend the sewer to the Hiawatha Lane area in Saugatuck.

The Planning & Zoning Commission has already rejected this developer’s request twice, on the grounds that the nearby pumping station and the sewer pipe that runs under the river from the Saugatuck area to our wastewater treatment plant are already in danger of failing.

Both items are on the town’s list of infrastructure repairs, but before work can start, the town needs to obtain a lot of permits and approvals from the state and feds, which still hasn’t happened. P&Z recognized that adding potential effluent to a failing system was not a smart move. If, for example, the repairs are delayed and the pipe bursts, it could have catastrophic environmental and other consequences for the Town.

Westport's wastewater treatment plant, across the Saugatuck River from the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

Westport’s wastewater treatment plant, across the Saugatuck River from the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

Save Westport Now agrees with P&Z’s conclusion: that it would be foolhardy for the town to approve a sewer extension before the pipe and pumping station are actually fixed/replaced. This is especially true since — no matter what we hope or the developer claims — the repairs are likely to take more time than usual, since they will need to be scheduled around other projects already planned for the area, including most notably the rehab of the I-95 overpass, the repair of the MetroNorth bridge, and the repair of the Cribari/Saugatuck bridge.

This will not be a simple or quick repair, and the Town should not risk the town’s resources just because a developer stands to lose money if he doesn’t get his way.

I hope you will attend the meeting or email the selectman’ office ( about the matter as well. As residents and taxpayers, we need to let our elected officials know that we care about the environment — and that we believe in smart planning. Adding effluent to a failing sewer system before we are sure when and how the system will be fixed is just not smart.

10 responses to “Save Westport Now: Stop Hiawatha’s Sewer Request

  1. Carolanne Curry

    So glad Save Westport Now is on board here and recognized the extreme risk that sewer approval would mean to the Saugatuck community as a whole. Developer Felix Charney continues to regard Old Saugatuck as a commodity….not the vibrant historical community that it has been since its origination in the late 1800’s
    Charney expects to “pack the auditorium” tomorrow st 8:30 am, when the three Selectprtsons will hear this applicant’s plea for a sewer extension se he can build his 155 apartments.
    And this would only be the first step in the total demotion of Old Saugatuck.
    Why would the first and second selectmen be complicit in such damaging actions?
    Why would Westport Housing Authority become a partner to activities that completely destroy their credibility?
    Money? Greed? Ego? Arrogance?

    We don’t need this and Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner should know better.
    Please come tomorrow morning anyone who wants to stop this madness
    8:30 am
    Westport Toen Hall.

  2. John F. Suggs

    For many reasons this potential action by the BOS, in their capacity as the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA), represents a real tragedy if they actually vote tomorrow to ignore the P&Z Commission’s negative 8-24 report to the First Selectman regarding this private sanitary sewer extension application. Not least of which is that they would be doing it in flagrant disregard of their own Town Policy regarding “Private Sanitary Sewer Main-Line Extensions” (MLE) which states:

    “2. Following a positive reporting for the 8-24 application the applicant shall submit a letter to the WPCA requesting the approval to install an MLE.”

    Yet again, for the 5th time now, there was no positive 8-24 report when the applicant went before the P&Z on July 7, 2016. It was a unanimous negative 8-24 report. And for good reason, the P&Z stated:

    “The current sewer infrastructure cannot accommodate the increase in flow including but not limited to sewer flow through the pipe under the Saugatuck River.”

    Or as the Department of Public Works informed the BOS/WPAC on July 19, 2016:

    “To approve an application which would exceed the capacity of the pump station would put the Town of Westport at risk of an illegal discharge and a violation of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit. Any failure of the pump station 2 collection system or force main would adversely affect the health and safety of the Saugatuck community.”

    So why is the BOS/WPAC even hearing this tomorrow in the first place? The P&Z and the DPW have both publicly and in writing warned them of the safety and health risks. And, as cited above, it is directly against their official own policy.

    But don’t believe me. Read the policy yourself here:

    John F. Suggs
    RTM District 5

    • Thank you John Suggs for representing the interests of our District and specifically supplying the relevant policies.

  3. Bruce J. Kent

    Anyone besides me notice how government consistently gets in the way and makes it difficult (expensive) to get things done that need to get done?

  4. Am I to surmise that if the P&Z says “no” to something, the Westport Water Pollution Control Authority can override that ruling and say “yes”? Any other governing body above the WWPCA? Is there a chart I can see to understand who’s the ultimate yes/no power in town?

    Thank you.

  5. Jerry MacDaid

    Let’s pretend that the developer was going to pay for the necessary repairs and upgrades to the sewer line, pump station, etc. Curious if that would change anyone’s mind or is the sewer line merely the convenient red herring to derail affordable housing development in Westport?

  6. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    I am late to this conversation but will comment that developers usually have their own interests and financial bottom line as their primary focus and really aren’t concerned about any negative results or damage to infrastructure, the environment or negative impact to current residents. I hope and pray that this does not pass tomorrow. It is a tragedy waiting to happen ……..

  7. New Canaan has an interesting strategy for getting a 4 (or 8?) year moratorium – Chris Woods