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Its Future Path Murky, Woodridge Lake Sewer District Keeps Things Flowing

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Map of a portion of the Woodridge Lake Dewer System
Staff Writers

Did you ever wonder what happens to the wastewater that goes down your kitchen sink drain or gets flushed down your toilet?

The answer is “it’s a journey”.

Though the Woodridge Lake Sewer District’s (WLSD) future plans remain stuck in State bureaucratic limbo, operations continue to run smoothly for the 52-year-old, 19-mile-long system that collects and processes 100,000 gallons of wastewater per day from the 716 homes hooked up to it.

Since 1985, the plant has been under a consent order from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), which had decided that the plant was not operating to the standards they wanted. The order imposed certain rules and mandated that the District work proactively with DEEP to solve the problem. When Jim Mersfelder and Ray Turri got to the Board, the District was on the verge of being fined $25,000 a day by the Attorney General for non-compliance with the consent order, for what were deemed to be inadequate efforts to solve the long-term problems of the plant. The Sewer District President was forced to resign and Turri drove to Hartford to meet with state officials, pledging cooperation and asking for support on a path forward. The fines then didn’t come, but neither did the support. Sewer operations have since improved dramatically under the guidance of Turri and Mersfelder.  However, despite hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenditures by the District on various mandated engineering studies and plans imposed by DEEP, there remains no clear direction as to the necessary expansion of the facilities to accommodate future needs as the population grows.

Evidence suggests the present operations of the district are quite effective.

In late May, The Goshen News accompanied Mersfelder and Turri on a tour of the entire system, from collection to discharge. What we found was a well-organized and operated plant that is performing well, despite its age.

pump station
One of the 9 pumping stations serving the Woodridge Lake community

Homes above street level drain wastewater by gravity, while homes below street level are equipped with pumps, moving it to sewer pipes located beneath or alongside community streets. Nine pumping stations located around the lake, each with redundant pumps, then deliver the wastewater to a small building located on the Woodridge Lake clubhouse grounds, from which it is pumped to another pumping station on Beach Street. From there it flows through a 1½-mile-long pipe to a processing plant located on a 95-acre site off Rt. 63. All the pump stations are connected by a radio beacon via an antenna located on the roof of the Woodridge Lake clubhouse.

pump station
Pump house on Woodridge Lake clubhouse campus

The processing plant is staffed 24/7/365. A dedicated, licensed staff of four technicians are organized into shifts to provide continuous monitoring of operations. The monitoring station indicates all levels throughout the system and the status of operations. The system is equipped with a series of alarms if some condition approaches a preprogrammed limit, and the alarms are also transmitted to the technician’s cellphone, alerting him even if he is out inspecting a system component. An app allows the tech to monitor the system remotely as well.



Technician Michael Howell at the monitoring station


A view inside the processing facility


Greywater entering a holding tank on the processing site


At the processing plant, contaminated “greywater” enters concrete holding tanks, to which special bacteria are added to digest the waste in a completely non-chemical, non-toxic process. Clean water is then moved to holding tanks from which it is distributed to a series of leaching beds, use of which is rotated to maintain efficiency and to comply with state requirements for residence time.

effluentClean water effluent

DEEP’s contention, according to Mersfelder, was that the leaching fields weren’t working as required, despite two years of DEEP-supervised testing by an independent hydrologist which proved otherwise. DEEP pushed for a solution based on regionalization, which would involve closing the plant and sending the wastewater to either Torrington or Litchfield. Initially, the Torrington plan was pursued, but it fell through when excessive demands by the Torrington Water Company disqualified the project for USDA funding. A Litchfield solution was pursued next, but despite a potential $5 million benefit to the Town of Litchfield, it ran into local opposition and a positive decision remains elusive. Design work to upgrade Litchfield’s plant has been slow-walked with no end in sight, and even if completed, there would still be years of negotiation to incorporate Woodridge Lake into the Litchfield plan. The plan would then have to be approved by a town vote in Litchfield.  “It’s highly improbable that they’re going to do it,” Mersfelder said.


WLSD leaching fields near Rt. 63

Following a meeting and site tour with State Senator Stephen Harding and Representative Maria Horn, last year, it became clear that the best alternative is to return, now, to the District’s original plan to upgrade the existing plant. Unfortunately, over the course of the many years that have passed since that proposal was put forward, the cost has more than doubled from $11 million to $27 million. Still, nothing can happen without DEEP approval, but according to Mersfelder, “They’re thinking about it”.

The Goshen News reached out to DEEP for comment on this issue, but to date they have not responded. Meanwhile, time is not on the District’s side, nor on the side of its gracefully aging leadership.

jim and ray

WLSD President Ray Turri (L) and VP Jim Mersfelder (R)