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Cromwell Could OK City Joining Mattabassett Sewer Authority

The public hearing Wednesday to vote on whether to accept a charter revision allowing Middletown to join the regional wastewater authority is expected to be an animated one.

Mattabassett District Wastewater Treatment Facility in Cromwell.
Mattabassett District Wastewater Treatment Facility in Cromwell.

Cromwell selectmen could decide Wednesday whether to allow Middletown to join the Mattabassett Sewer District in the first of the three member districts — New Britain, Berlin and Cromwell — to vote on a charter revision approved in June by the authority's board of directors. 

It's been a decades-long effort on the part of Middletown to join the district.

The public hearing at Cromwell Town Hall at 7 p.m. prior to the selectmen's vote is expected to be a lively one, according to Cromwell Selectman Al Waters, who's been a vocal opponent of the plan to admit Middletown for a number of reasons. 

"Over the years, the stench from the Mattabassett has deterred a lot of people from using the river" and residents, especially those who live in the south end of Cromwell like himself, complain about the smell coming from the plant, Waters said.

He also questions what Mattabassett sends out of its stacks. "We're the host town," Waters said. "We're the people in the line of fire. We deserve a lot more respect than what we get," he said about the other member towns. 

Cromwell, detractors have said, already bears a burden as the host community.

Some opponents on the Cromwell side are wary of adding Middletown because the additional burden on the wastewater treatment plant could exacerbate problems. Others object to the city's potential voting power on the board of directors if it gets four votes as compared to Cromwell's three.

Middletown Mayor Dan Drew said he's eager for the city to join the regional authority. "This is a big, big, big project. We're looking forward to working with all of the towns involved in this project and working collaboratively with them to bring it to a potential conclusion."

Middletown has been working for more than two decades to address problems with its aging sewer treatment on the Connecticut River and joining the regional sewer district was a lynchpin in its plans to shut down the sewer plant on River Road.

In June 2011, the state legislature unanimously approved a bill sponsored by state Rep. Matt Lesser (D-Middletown) and the Middletown legislative delegation in the final day of the legislative session which allowed Middletown to join the Mattabassett  District

"This is the culmination of 40 years of discussions and is a win-win for residents, the environment and most of all Middletown's waterfront," Lesser said at the time.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill in July 2011, which authorized the board of directors to increase from 12 to 15 members. Presently, New Britain has five members on the board and Cromwell and Berlin each have three. 

Representation is determined by a complicated formula, according to Mattabasset Executive Director Brian Armet. Three votes are allocated to each member town and, depending upon population, each town's sewage treatment demands and other factors, additional board members are allowed.

Last November, Middletown voters approved spending $37 million to install a pipeline along Route 9 connecting sewer lines to the district plant in Cromwell. Under the plan, the city would decommission its outdated treatment plant on River Road. 

In February, the city paid the $13 million buy-in fee to join the district. That $50 million includes the price of decommissioning Middletown's plant, construction costs, directional drilling, and the expense of building a pump station to connect to the wastewater plant in Cromwell, according to Drew.

Armet said Berlin's council will consider Middletown's admission at its September meeting and New Britain soon after.

The Mattabassett District was formed by the State Legislature in 1961 to provide wastewater treatment to New Britain, Berlin and Cromwell, according to its website, and adjoining communities in its watershed, including portions of Farmington, Middletown, Newington and Rocky Hill.

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