OF NEW FAIRFIELD, CT 2003 PLAN OF
DEVELOPMENT TEXT CONCERNING SEWERS
The following text is drawn from the New Fairfield Plan of
Conservation and Development Town Plan which became effective
7/15/2003. All of the text that follows in this section is
copied directly from the New Fairfield Plan:
Sewer Avoidance Program
New Fairfield has enacted one of the most progressive septic
management / sewer avoidance policies in the State of Connecticut.
This program (first instituted in 1991) required that all
properties be walked at least once every three years and owners
of properties that fail the inspection have to repair or replace
their septic system.
its inception, the rate of septic failures has decreased by
50 percent and identified septic problems are closely monitored
until they are successfully resolved.
Since 1970, there have been several studies of the cost and
feasibility of extending sewer service to parts of New Fairfield
(areas such as the Ball Pond area, Candlewood Isle, Candlewood
Knolls, Charcoal Ridge, New Fairfield Center, and the Town
schools on Gillotti Road).
of these studies have been prepared in response to recognized
water quality problems or State orders to abate pollution.
Fairfield residents have generally opposed proposals to extend
sewage service to the community due to concerns over cost
and fear that sewers would attract inappropriate development.
A Public Sewer System In The Center
Properties in New Fairfield are generally served by private
septic systems. Although such systems are common in rural
and suburban communities in Connecticut, they have resulted
in some concerns over the years in New Fairfield due to the
density of development in the lake areas (Candlewood Lake
and Ball Pond) and septic failures (due to poor soil types,
installation, or operation).
help address the continued use of septic systems, New Fairfield
should continue the septic management program presently in
the septic management program is working well on an overall
basis (failures are addressed professionally and reasonably
quickly), there is little doubt that sewage disposal will
continue to be a prominent local issue.
development in the Town Center area and the interest for alternative
development patterns is complicated by the lack of sewage
disposal capacity due to the soil types prevalent in this
area. In addition, three New Fairfield schools have required
extensive repairs to their septic systems (total cost $2.7
million) in recent years.
a result, some people have indicated that New Fairfield should
at least begin to explore alternative options for sewage disposal
in the Town Center area.
area that may be the most appropriate for establishment of
a limited sewage treatment system is the Town Center area,
the schools on Gillotti Road, the police station, and the
the event that New Fairfield would need sewage treatment capacity,
the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has
provided that treatment capacity of 700,000 gallons per day
be reserved at the Danbury sewage treatment plant for New
limited-capacity sewage disposal system within the New Fairfield
Center area could:
• provide safe treatment of sewage,
• protect groundwater and reduce environmental impacts,
• encourage node development patterns in New Fairfield
• eliminate future septic repair costs at municipal
cost of this system would be borne by the beneficiaries(users)
of the system.
New Fairfield decides to consider a sewage treatment option,
the Plan recommends that the program contain the following
A Defined Service Area - a service area with a sewer limit
line where properties inside the area are eligible to receive
sewer service and properties outside the area will not receive
A Sewage Discharge Allocation - each property in the service
area receives a specific sewage discharge allocation (gallons
per day) that is related to the current use of property or
the future development potential allowed by the zoning regulations
or a specific plan. A "transfer"of allocations between
properties is not permitted.
Sizing of Improvements –sewer improvements are sized
to only accommodate the amount of sewage discharge allocated
to the properties in the service area (with a small surplus
held by the Town).
this way, selected properties can be provided with sewer service
to accommodate those uses and activities that the community
wants and where the community wants without opening a “Pandora’s
Box” for other uses or sites (some people are concerned
about the cost of a sewer system and fears that availability
of a sewer system would result in unbridled growth).
the allocation system, each development would have to "tune"
its scale to the sewage allocation. The allocation prevents
unwanted or undesirable development that may not be inappropriate
for the community.
line capacity, in a limited-capacity system, is determined
by the total allocations for all properties within the sewer
limit line. If the system requires an 8-inch pipe to handle
the current and future needs of the system, then that size
pipe determines the maximum amount of sewage that can ever
flow from that system.
Plan also recommends that, if State or Federal agencies direct
the Town to install sewers differently than the Plan suggests
(a sewer limit line with a discharge allocation and a limited-capacity
force main), the Plan does not support any concept other than
that described in this Plan.
the planning period, New Fairfield may wish
to consider whether it may be desirable to provide for a limited
sewage disposal system in the Town Center area, the schools
on Gillotti Road, the police station, and the fire station.
The Town of Simsbury, CT has used a limited-capacity sewage
disposal system (a sewer limit line with sewage allocations)
for over 30 years. Simsbury has found this type of system
to be an important tool for supporting desired community development
and conserving important resources.
EXCERPTS FROM THE 2000 REPORT OF THE
NEW FAIRFIELD SEWER STUDY COMMITTEE
Sewers are often discussed as a permanent solution to potential
public health hazards; indeed, they are a permanent solution.
Once installed, sewers will never be removed, so before we
walk through the door marked sewers, we should discuss the
OF THE CT DEP ABATEMENT ORDER
As far back as 1970, New Fairfield engaged Camp, Dresser &
McKee to study the town's potential wastewater disposal problems.
Over the next eighteen years additional studies suggested
that action by New Fairfield seemed warranted to prevent a
potential health problem due to a perceived widespread failure
of septic systems.
of the more serious failures were in the Ball Pond area, as
well as parts of Candlewood Isle and Candlewood Knolls. Most
of the problem properties were summer bungalows that had become
full-time residences, without an upgrade of their sewage disposal
of the systems were crude cesspools (a 50-gallon drum filled
with stones), or were undersized septic systems. Making matters
worse was a widespread failure to adhere to a minimal septic
code in town. Many septic systems were undersized or were
installed incorrectly (usually deep in the surficial aquifer)
because of ignorance or worse. At the same time, when these
seriously undersized systems were repaired, they were brought
into minimum compliance with the state and local health codes.
October of 1989, the Connecticut Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) issued an abatement order instructing the
Town to stop polluting the waters of the state and to prepare
an engineering report in order to evaluate the wastewater
disposal needs and to devise a plan for properly dealing with
problem areas. Initial estimates suggested that a septic failure
rate of more than 10 percent was occurring in certain areas
of the town. New Fairfield's Water Pollution Control Authority
(WPCA) engaged Fuss & O'Neill, a Connecticut engineering
firm, to undertake a study and make recommendations that would
satisfy the DEP abatement order.
1991, based on the Fuss & O'Neill study the WPCA recommended
that a sewer system be installed in the Ball Pond area; at
a later date other problem areas would be added to the system.
At a public hearing residents overwhelmingly spoke against
a sewer system. Subsequently the Planning Commission and the
Board of Finance rejected the proposal.
a Town meeting on March 26, 1991 a Septic Management Sewer
Avoidance ordinance was adopted. A significant requirement
of the ordinance was that all properties are to be walked
over no less than once every three years to inspect for septic
system failures. A permit to operate a septic system would
be issued to owners of properties that passed the inspection.
A violation notice would be issued to owners of properties
that failed the septic system inspection and the Health Department
would take the necessary steps to enforce compliance.
the period 1991 through 1998 the Health Department walked
over every property in town three times. The data demonstrates
that significant progress has been made in reducing the number
of major failures; 117 or 2.3 % on the first round of inspections,
82 or 1. 6% on the second round and 62 or 1.1% on the last
round. A major failure is a septic system that needs major
renovation or replacement The average cost to repair major
failures has been $13,400 with the range being between $2,000
every septic system can be expected to eventually fail, which
is why new construction requires a 100% reserve area on the
property that can serve to replace a failed system. Once a
new reserve system is installed, a homeowner can switch back
and forth between the reserve and original septic areas, making
the septic system last indefinitely.
OF WATER POLLUTION IN THE TOWN TODAY
The Sewer Avoidance Act requires that all property owners
pump their septic systems every three years. This means we
are already sending sewage to Danbury, but it is a sewer line
on wheels: the tank trucks that take septic pumpage to Danbury's
treatment plant. This arrangement was the result of an Interlocal
Agreement negotiated years ago with Danbury....
Despite statements that many commercial properties are having
trouble with their septic systems, it appears that there are
no widespread failures in the center of town. Examples of
past failures (since repaired) include a restaurant's neglect
to properly operate grease traps, which resulted in clogged
balance of this section deals with the Health Department and
WPCA summary of walkovers on residential properties. It is
also clear from this synopsis that the septic failure rate
throughout the town is low, and is in fact declining, not
conclude that there is no compelling reason from a public
health standpoint to install sewers in the town at this time.
Fuss & O'Neill 1990 study estimated the 20-year cost per
dwelling for sewers in the Ball Pond area would be $26,080,
which includes $232 for annual maintenance and user fee to
Danbury. The construction cost for sewers, only, in the Ball
Pond area was $29,200,000.
expected cost to repair septic systems in the Ball Pond area
over the next 20 years is around $3,591,000. This study indicates
that, over the long term, the expected cost to repair residential
septic systems will probably be significantly less than the
cost of sewers. Additional studies will probably be needed
in order to have a high degree of confidence in the actual
long term cost of septic systems vs. sewers.
New Fairfield is under a town wide Connecticut Department
of Environmental Protection abatement order and a sewer avoidance
ordinance passed by the town in 1989. If sewers are extended
into New Fairfield, the probability is pressure will be put
on the current zoning regulations and zones in the town. The
following is not expected to be an unabridged dissertation
on the effects of Zoning and Zoning regulations. It is a practical
view of several of the factors that would effect zoning if
New Fairfield was to modify its current sewer avoidance ordinance
and extend sewers to part of or the whole town.
uses the following issues to create and maintain reasonable
land use regulations. Pressure on Zoning comes from the change
of one of three (3) elements that are used to limit zoning:
- Transportation and access, is the direct relation of the
size and availability of roads to safely manage traffic congestion.
- Availability of fresh water is necessary. This is determined
by the ease of access to the water and the land's ability
to support a level of development. - Ability of the land to
support waste disposal. Sewers would increase the land's ability
to maintain an increased level of development.
and 2-acre zoning can be sustained for one very important
reason, and that is because it maintains sufficient area for
on-site subsurface sewage disposal (septic tanks and fields).
With that size building lot, there is sufficient dilution
of nitrogenous waste by rainwater to prevent pollution of
the deep bedrock aquifer on which the town depends for its
water. If a homeowner has at least an average 40,000 square
foot lot (about an acre), it is possible to place a septic
system and a 100 percent septic reserve area on that lot.
With the reserve area, a properly maintained septic system
can last indefinitely.
must emphasize again: the only reason that can maintain our
current zoning regulations against a legal challenge to downzone
is the dilution of nitrogen that occurs on large lots. This
is the key to controlling rapid and unwanted development.
Once sewers are installed, there is no longer any compelling
reason to maintain the I-or 2-acre building lots, and downzoning
developing or improving one or all of the factors adds to
the value and cost of each piece of land and thus creates
a need for a higher return/price. Extending sewers into the
town would automatically change one of the three conditions
used to determine the land's viability. The higher costs of
land and development would lead to the need for the land to
produce a higher utility to be able to re-coup the costs of
development The higher costs create a pressure for higher
density and/or utility. The increased land cost will naturally
lead to a higher cost of development.
This will mean that the currently lower use land (generally
residential zoned) would be required to bring a higher return/price.
This can mean several possibilities of development could occur:
- Residential housing prices increase. - Zoning regulations
are pressured to be reduced to allow for an increased residential
density (smaller parcels of land). - Zoning regulations are
pressured to be changed to allow for a higher utility (i.e.
we would like to comment on the risk of losing our 700,000
gallon hook-up with Danbury if we continue our sewer avoidance
program. Connecticut's DEP mandated that this capacity be
added to Danbury's waste treatment plant in order to accommodate
New Fairfield's sewers. There is no way this will be given
to another municipality, such as Newtown, which has asked,
until the DEP is convinced that New Fairfield does not need
sewers. They are nowhere near convinced that we do not need
sewers, and we think that they will never be convinced. If
the allotment is ever given away and we eventually do need
sewers, we would then have to negotiate with Danbury because
we cannot build our own waste treatment plant.
Can we continue to have septic systems operate in town into
the foreseeable future? Newer technologies include small,
more sophisticated on-site treatment systems that may extend
the life of septic systems for years, and may even eliminate
the need for sewers entirely.
AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE
We also recommend that the town establish a groundwater/watershed
protection program as outlined in Protecting Connecticut's
Groundwater (1997) CT DEP Bulletin 26. We currently have excellent
groundwater quality in town, and a long-range plan to maintain
that water quality should be put in place. Rivers and streams
can be cleansed of pollutants (say, a sewage overflow) in
a matter of days, but if the deep aquifer is contaminated,
the slow movement of water through that zone may require decades
to centuries before being clean enough to drink.
FAIRFIELD CT SEWER STUDY I
SSUES (UPDATED ONLY TO 1992)
In 1970 New Fairfield was first ordered by the State to undertake
a study of sewerage needs. The resulting 1973 consulting report
prepared by Camp, Dresser & McKee identified priority
areas for municipal sewerage systems, including the Ball Pond
area, the Town Center, Charcoal Ridge, and Candlewood Lake
The report concluded that if New Fairfield found it necessary
to construct a municipal sewerage system, the most cost-effective
plan would be based on a connection southerly to the Danbury
sewer system via Barnum Road. The initial phase of a New Fairfield
sewerage system would include purchase of flow and treatment
capacity in the Danbury sewer system. Total estimated cost
for a complete sewage system covering all problem areas within
New Fairfield was $49 million.
cost for such a relatively small population served was attributed
to New Fairfield’s low population density and scattered
centers of development, difficult construction conditions
and long distances to any neighboring municipal sewerage systems
for treatment. At the time, no consideration was given to
a possible sewer avoidance program.
late 1970’s New Fairfield successfully fought a CT DEP
order to pipe collected raw sewage under Candlewood Lake,
eastward into Brookfield, and eventually to New Milford’s
sewage treatment plant on the Housatonic River. This idea
was proposed in a 1977 report entitled Final EIS for Wastewater
Collection and Treatment Facilities, prepared for the U.S.
EPA by Anderson-Nichols & Co. After that debate, the Town’s
orientation for future sewage treatment needs returned to
In 1979, a CT DEP field survey found 43 of the 480 septic
systems in the Ball Pond area to be failing and allegedly
contaminating the Putnam Lake watershed to the west, in N.Y.
State. In 1980 the New Fairfield Water Pollution Control Authority
was created at CT DEP’s request. The New Fairfield Health
Department attempted to confirm the CT DEP field survey through
dye testing. This testing substantiated the CT DEP findings
on less than half of the failed septic systems found by CT
In 1982, the WPCA engaged the firm of Malcolm Pirnie, Inc.
to study the Ball Pond area to reconcile the differences between
the CT DEP findings and those of the local Health Department.
Malcolm Pirnie found high fecal coliform counts in numerous
surface water and shallow groundwater samples. However, the
deep groundwater aquifer did not show contamination.
Septic system failure rates of approximately 10% were found
in the study area by field survey and questionnaire. The study
recommended that the WPCA implement an active wastewater management
program in the Ball Pond area which would subsequently be
expanded to cover the entire Town.
the WPCA hired an Assistant Sanitarian and the Health Department
began a program in the Ball Pond study area of septic system
inspection and repair. The inspection program found 70 failing
the Town Sanitarian issued a report of program results to
the WPCA recommending temporary abatement guidelines be established
for homeowners with failing septic systems, an engineering
consultant be hired to recommend alternate forms of on-site
or off-site disposal, and a moratorium on building in the
Ball Pond area be adopted until a long-term groundwater contamination
abatement program was instituted. His report concluded that
given the small lots, poor soil conditions and high water
table in the Ball Pond area, it was almost impossible to repair
failing septic systems on site.
a New Fairfield town meeting approved a three year moratorium
on construction within the Ball Pond study area, while the
Town investigated its sewerage disposal options. In 1987,
the WPCA hired Fuss & O’Neill to prepare a wastewater
management study for the entire Town. In 1988, a town meeting
adopted the most stringent health code in the State with requirements
in excess of the state health code. Also instituted by the
Board of Selectmen were annual surprise audits of the Health
Department work and records by an outside engineering firm
to insure compliance with and enforcement of the new health
CT DEP issued a town-wide pollution abatement order to New
the WPCA’s wastewater management study by Fuss &
O’Neill proposed a sewage collection system for the
Ball Pond and Town Center areas, as well as the Town’s
public schools located on Gillotti Road, as a first phase
of sewering. This collection system was proposed to connect
into the Danbury sewer system via Barnum Road and the existing
Padanaram Brook interceptor sewer line.
also identified seven other areas within New Fairfield which
did not require sewering at that time but might require sewering
in the future due to limitations in on-site subsurface disposal.
As a result, the report recommended that the sewer piping
installed in phase one be sized to accommodate future flows
from the identified potential problem areas. The Ball Pond
area system was to serve 652 properties at an estimated cost
of $19.1 million. If designed to serve 1,023 properties, the
estimated cost was $26.4 million. If Charcoal Ridge, Indian
Hill and Candlewood Knolls were added, the total cost would
be $42.8 million.
the WPCA proposed a sewer system for the Ball Pond area, the
town schools, and the Town Center at an estimated cost of
$29.2 million. The Board of Selectmen approved the proposal.
But in the face of strong public opposition from the proposed
users to the estimated cost ($1,304 per year for 20 years
plus $1500 connection fee for a house assessed at $100,000),
the proposal was rejected by the Planning Commission and the
Board of Finance. The WPCA than turned their attention to
developing a town wide on-site wastewater management program
that would be acceptable to the CT DEP.
The WPCA, Board of Selectmen, and Health Department jointly
developed a septic management program incorporating property
inspections, homeowner education, water quality testing, investigation
of alternative technologies, legal action to force septic
repairs, and exploration of funding sources for low and moderate
income homeowners to make repairs. In March of 1991 the Town
adopted a Septic Management/Sewer Avoidance Ordinance. Town
Health Department staff systematically inspects 1/3 of all
properties in Town per year, check for evidence of above ground
discharges and illegal connections to storm drains, brooks,
with no observed violations are issued a three-year permit
to discharge. Those with violations are issued orders to take
corrective action. Homeowners are mailed an inspection report
and an educational pamphlet on water conservation and proper
care and maintenance of a septic system. If the septic system
has not been pumped within five years, they also receive a
reminder notice to pump. After the first year of inspections
of 1549 properties, 32 failures had been found, a failure
rate of 2.1%.
quality testing of drainage outflows, catch basins, streams
and eight shallow groundwater-monitoring wells is performed
six times per year at 55 locations throughout the Town. Samples
are analyzed for fecal coliform, fecal strep, nitrates, ammonia
of alternative technologies included a proposal for a pilot
project to test anaerobic type septic systems in New Fairfield.
Another involved a proposed test of the hypothesis that in
tight, impervious clay soils, shallow groundwater and deep
bedrock groundwater are two separate groundwater systems and
thus justify two separate groundwater classifications. CT
DEP has not yet responded to these proposals (Note: a reminder
that this text was written in 1992).
spends over $12,000 per year in legal fees to take property
owners to court who do not voluntarily repair failing septic
systems. This involves approximately 20 cases per year. The
Town has won every case.
1991, the Town received a Small Cities grant through CT DOH
of $350,000. Low and moderate-income homeowners can receive
low interest or no interest loans, with deferred payments,
for use in repairing failing septic systems. Approximately
30 homeowners will be served initially, with more in the future,
as the fund is replenished from loan paybacks.
Department has been expanded from 3 1/2 to 6 1/2 full time
employees in order to accomplish the goals of the Septic Management
Program. According to the ordinance, key purposes of the program
are to develop on-site inspection data from all areas of Town
which can be used by the WPCA in a wastewater management plan
for the entire Town, and to delay as long as possible or avoid
completely the need for sewer installations throughout New
Fairfield. The 1975 Plan of Development and the proposed 1992
Plan of Development support a strong sewer avoidance/septic
management program for the Town.
FAIRFIELD CT CONSIDERATION
OF SEWAGE TREATMENT OPTIONS (UPDATED ONLY TO 1992)
The 1973 Report on Wastewater Collection and Disposal for New
Fairfield, prepared by Camp Dresser and McKee, investigated
a variety of potential options for treatment of sewage effluent
collected by any future Town sewer system. The alternatives
considered included treatment within New Fairfield, treatment
in the township of Southeast in New York State, treatment in
New Milford, and treatment in Danbury. The report concluded
that the Danbury sewer system would provide the most feasible
overall solution for the future anticipated pollution problems
in New Fairfield.
consideration was once again given to connecting any future
municipal sewer system in New Fairfield to a treatment plant
in New Milford. The report entitled Final Environmental Impact
Statement: Wastewater Collection and Treatment Facilities
in New Milford prepared for the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency considered such a connection. The report concluded
that if a town-wide sewer system were eventually required,
connection to the Danbury system for treatment might be more
costly than to the New Milford system.
consulting study prepared by Fuss & O’Neill proposed
a municipal sewerage system which would connect to the Danbury
sewer system, via Barnum Road, to the existing Padanaram Brook
interceptor sewer line. The volume of sewage collected by
the proposed phase one sewer service area was estimated at
0.253 MGD. The 20 year design flow rate, which included seven
other identified potential problem areas, was estimated at
CT DEP mandated that a 0.7 MGD allocation of treatment capacity
be set-aside for New Fairfield in the upgraded Danbury sewer
plant. The City of Danbury, which is responsible for the construction,
maintenance and operation of the Danbury sewage treatment
plant, questions this current allocation on the grounds that
New Fairfield has not agreed to pay for the CT DEP mandated
allocation. Danbury would like to be able to allocate a portion
of this additional regional capacity to Newtown for its proposed
sewer line serving the Hawleyville area.
This would maintain the integrity of Danbury’s share
of the treatment plant’s capacity and would provide
fiscal relief to the City, with Newtown paying for a portion
of the construction and maintenance costs of the CT DEP mandated
additional regional capacity.
supports a cooperative regional approach to serving the region’s
sewerage needs for economic development and environmental
protection. The 0.7 MGD set-aside for New Fairfield in the
Danbury sewer plant was mandated by CT DEP as a result of
the pollution abatement order issued to the Town in 1989.
When there is sufficient data to show that the Town’s
Septic Management Program is adequately protecting the groundwater
and surface waters to the satisfaction of both New Fairfield
and the CT DEP, and/or the 20 year design flow rate can realistically
be adjusted downward for potential problem areas in the Town,
CT DEP may reallocate a portion of the 0.7 MGD regional need
set-aside designated for New Fairfield in the Danbury sewer
plant. The Town has not voted to pay for the set-aside capacity
since it is not currently being used.