Protesters Face PURA At Water Tower Site Visit

You’ve seen the yard signs up and down North Avenue.

On Thursday, members of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority did too.

They came to Westport last week, on a site visit to the proposed location of 2 concrete water towers. Aquarion hopes to build them — as replacements and improvements on the one current, much smaller facility — directly opposite Staples High School.

Jennifer Johnson joined several other opponents at the regulators’ site visit.

She was not impressed.

PURA members and protesters at the Aquarion North Avenue water tower site visit on Thursday.

“Aquarion didn’t mark out the rough location of the proposed tanks, or mark the trees that are coming down, and/or float a balloon so people could visualize the tanks’ height (squished into a small site),” she says. “Isn’t that the point of a site inspection?

Johnson reports that a few non-Aquarion attendees tried to mark the location of one of the new tanks by standing in the woods at the proposed center, then walking 50 feet in each direction. “It was only partly successful,” she says.

Johnson and her group hoped to convey some of their opposite to the PURA members. They printed out their main objections, part of a fact sheet originally compiled by Save Westport Now:

●  As currently planned, the new tank will not solve the water pressure problems in Westport. Even if the new tanks are built, the majority of fire hydrants in town will still be deficient.

●  The new tanks will allow Aquarion to “push” more water to other parts of Fairfield County, begging the question: Can’t they find another site for the second tank, in a less residential area?

An aerial view shows the North Avenue Aquarion tank site, opposite Staples High School.

●  During the proposed 2-plus-year construction period, trucks and industrial excavators will clog North Avenue and streets around Staples. Combined with traffic from Bedford Middle School and the loss of the sidewalk, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Yet Aquarion remains delinquent in providing a basic construction plan.

●  The real problem is not just the size of the tanks, but the obsolete and undersized water mains that run beneath our roads.

●  To make matters worse, the new tanks are likely to create bigger problems. The large increase in water capacity can lead to stale water.

●  Aquarion has finally acknowledged the problem with the water mains, and agreed to minor upgrades. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. (Aquarion is a for-profit monopoly. Its interest in rewarding shareholders does not necessarily align with residents’ or customers’ interests.)

●  Westport could wind up with 2 extremely ugly tanks, more expensive water—and still have a water pressure problem.

A photo shows the height of the proposed new water tanks.

Opponents ask PURA to require a “full independent review and comprehensive plan for upgrading Westport’s water infrastructure.”

They also want Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission to have the authority to revoke the permit for this project. That way, they say, “Westport and Aquarion can move forward with a workable plan for rebuilding our water infrastructure for the next century.”

Several town officials, including the fire chief, have testified that the towers are necessary for safety.

PURA will hold a public hearing on Thursday, December 20 (9:30 a.m., 10 Franklin Square, New Britain), to consider Aquarion’s proposed towers.

11 responses to “Protesters Face PURA At Water Tower Site Visit

  1. Does anyone know why water would be pushed to other part of Fairfield County if the new tanks won’t even help meet all the towns needs? (i.e., the fire hydrants referenced in the article, etc.) Why would the town allow this?

  2. John Hartwell

    So they’re going to hold a public hearing in the morning in a city an hour away. That’s a great way to encourage local participation.

    • Arline Gertzoff

      John I think it’s to make sure there is suppression so they can say nobody cares
      Sad reality

  3. Melissa Augeri

    Thank you to Jennifer Johnson and the group of local people who are spending their time to exercise due diligence.

  4. What the hell? A public hearing in New Britain on a Westport project? Sounds like “attendance suppression”.

  5. Jen, I feel your pain. My downtown Westport neighborhood could direct a movie about what happens to humans when water mains and related infrastructure gets replaced. It would be titled: “Believe Nothing” – although “You’re On Your Own” might be a better title for, ahem, local distribution.

  6. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    It’s time for torches, pitchforks, tar and feathers. STAT!!!!
    To quote one of the last Presidents with any integrity (even though incredibly he was a WASP/1%er) “This WILL NOT STAND!!!!”

  7. Robert Harrington

    Everyone who come please attend to show PURA that we will travel an hour to make our voices heard. Our state delegation will all be there. Toni Boucher helped tremendously. Now Will Haskell is taking the fight on. He attended last week and will be coming and speaking in New Britian. We have some wonderful RTM representatives too putting in the time. We are Westport and we will not be pushed around.

  8. Kathleen Boggs

    I’m writing from afar, but something to watch out for is that Water Towers and tall “existing” structures are usually where cellular/wireless antennas usually show up. And that is another things you don’t want near homes and schools (or anywhere really!)

    In many towns, TeleCom / Wireless Ordinance have siting guidelines that have preferred locations and I’d worry a water tower may make the list. And/or PURA would rent/make money from the carriers by giving them the rights to their towers.