“Smart Water Westport” Urges Action

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.

One view of Aquarion’s North Avenue water tanks …

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.

… and a close-up.

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.

Kind regards,

Smart Water Westport

9 responses to ““Smart Water Westport” Urges Action

  1. Maybe the “conservation” folks could convince the golf courses (especially town owned Longshore) to water less…bet they are one of the largest wasters of the liquid). Also, seems to me that public sanitary sewer systems are a bad idea….they are far less ecologically sound AND, all the water we send that way does NOT go back into the water table as we know it…it goes to the Sound and never becomes potable…septic systems recharge almost all the water that goes into them and we then end up drinking it or allowing some well owner to do so.

    • Michael Calise

      The sewer treatment plant is depleting our aquifer of over two million gallons of water each day and its existence assures a continuation of overdevelopment in our community.

    • Deb Rosenfield

      This push for sewers is out of control. I live on a street where, less than five minutes after a downpour like we had last night, there is not a drop of water on the street. Yet, my little in-town area is slated for a year or two of hell because of sewer line installation. (We’ve already had that hell with over a year of a gas main installation a few years back and the town repaved the street just a few years ago.)

      Not to mention that I cannot be told ahead of time by the town what it will cost as an assessment to me and a lien on my home. I wouldn’t have a bathroom remodeled without a firm estimate. I was told by the town that the assessment would probably be somewhere between $21000-25000 but that I can ‘pay it off over 19 years’ with interest, and that was before interest rates started rising. I watched a video of an RTM meeting from Feb, 2021 about sewer installation in another part of town. One of the RTM members, Ms Bram, asked the head of the town DPW about the cost to homeowners there and he totally evaded the question vis omission of key facts, plus seemed to make her afraid to ask followup questions, but she was on the right track with her original question.

      My small property and 3 BR/2BA home will be assessed the same amount as a neighbor on a larger property, with twice as much street frontage and a 5 BR/5 bath home (that larger house, which, BTW, is doing just fine on septic right now because this area was built on an old gravel pit and 18″ down, it is sandy, so excellent drainage).

      The regs for sewer installation in town changed a few years back, if people in town aren’t aware. and instead of 70% of homeowners on a street needing to sign the petition, only 50% are required now. Oh, and the town no longer strictly adheres to using streets to calculate these percentages. The town will pinch a house or two from adjoining streets to gerrymander, oops– I mean to “make” their numbers. For the plan for this area, originally Compo N was to be included but the latest map shows that a couple of houses on Compo N, near Gorham and Tamarac, were included to “make the plan work” but 2 or 3 houses in between were not included.

      Lastly, and all homeowners need to be aware, the new regs state that if there is a sewer line in the street, you will no longer be issued a permit for a repair to a septic system, should you need one, and will be forced to hook up to the sewer system, which could cost yet another $10,000-20,000 (this time NOT payable over 19 years at a favorable interest rate the town might be able to negotiate but rather straight out of your own pocket) depending upon how your house is situated, where your current plumbing is, and any landscaping that would need to be repaired/replaced in the process. Sometimes, too, your house might require a sewer pump, which, when the power goes out, will no longer work till power is restored. Sort of like what happens when the aging sewer main pumps stop working.

      Yes, there probably are places that probably do need sewers but my area is not one of them and I feel railroaded to spend $25000-50000 when I’m retired and planned to age in place. All in the name of future population density increases in an already fairly densely populated in-town location. The town would be better served improving the current sewer lines and aging pumping systems and repairing other existing infrastructure.

  2. Peter Mihalick

    You have good intentions but will never win against eversource and the politicians they line the pockets of.

  3. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    “Eversource” What a joke. Bridgeport Hydraulic was at least honest in its branding orthodoxy. The new water tanks are the inevitable result of conspicuous consumption colliding with conspicuous construction.

  4. Jeanne Schwartz

    Follow the money!

  5. Carl Addison Swanson

    Good reporting Professor. Substance not fluff.

  6. Just wondering how many residents of Westport are investors in this company.

  7. stephanie Bass

    it is my understanding that the CEO of Eversource makes $19 MILLION A YEAR. I have never seen him. Not when I didn’t have electricity for a few days; when fellow Westporter’s didn’t have electricity for much longer.

    When Eversource said gee, their costs went up so they were going to raise our cost – maybe $4 a month, some lower down guy on the food chain. stood behind a podium, making it sound gee, so normal.

    I wanna see a guy who is worth $19 MILLION A YEAR. And I want him to explain. to me personally why all us little people have to pay more so he can keep getting his $$$$ (if my information on his compensation is not correct, I am open to listen to alternate info.)

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