According to “Smart Water Westport,” our town ranks first in Connecticut in water conservation.
However, the grassroots group says, Westport residents pay 50% more for water than Norwalkers, and more than double what our neighbors in Rhode Island and Massachusetts pay.
Meanwhile, Smart Water Westport has their eyes on the North Avenue water tanks. A few years ago, they secured almost 2,000 signatures on a petition for “smarter water solutions” in the debate over new tanks. In 2019, a regulator ruled that Aquarion intended to improve the situation, which led to a settlement. Construction began in 2020.
Since then, residents near Staples High School — and everyone traveling the busy road — have watched the project unfold.
Today, Smart Water Westport sends an open letter to Marissa Paslick Gillett. She chairs Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). It says:
For the past 6 years, Westport residents have learned about the water systems in our town and state. While there are probably as many opinions on water as faucets in Westport, most of us agree on one point: If we knew in 2017 what we know now, there is no way that the tanks on North Avenue would have been approved.
Today, we formally ask your agency to review the project in Westport. The reasons for such a review are the following:
- Tank size: The new tanks on North Avenue are larger than the PURA ruling allows.
- Water volume: Westport’s lack of water volume has never been an issue.
- Violation of zoning laws: Aquarion essentially wrote its own permit.
- Soil contamination: The soil on North Avenue was so contaminated that a specialized removal site rejected the delivery.
- Innovation: Aquarion has no plans to install any 21st-century technologies.
Westport already has the nation’s highest utility costs in the Lower 48. You testified in March 2022 that Connecticut residents are suffering “death by a thousand cuts” (CT Examiner). We do not believe that it has to be this way, and we invite your agency to work with us to ensure:
- fair and affordable rates for all residents,
- safe water and increased fire protection, and
- modern water management that actively addresses future challenges.
There is an urgency and importance for change now. Consider:
- Water conservation and smart management will be imperative going forward; it must be part of the Connecticut Development and Future Commission working plan.
- Important PURA projects, like the performance-based rate-setting framework or the advanced metering infrastructure, must include water issues.
- Aquarion’s parent company, Eversource, has promised higher returns for investors, and this will result in even higher bills for Connecticut residents.
- Issues surrounding water quality and fire protection have not been addressed.
- Climate change has not even been considered in the State Water Plan.
Over the past 6 years, a group of neighbors has analyzed almost every number that Aquarion has publicly stated. In doing so, they have found many unanswered questions, instances of misleading information, and weak oversight, and this may explain why Connecticut ratepayers pay the nation’s highest water bills.
We are hopeful that this project will become a case study and model Westporters can look to with pride.
Smart Water Westport