Watertown still cannot issue sewer permits for new development

Jan. 29—WATERTOWN — City officials met last week with the Department of Environmental Conservation about its moratorium on issuing sewer permits.

A moratorium remains in effect on sewer permits while the city works through issues with the Western Outfall Trunk Sewer basin.

In February, the city was cited by the DEC for purposely discharging untreated wastewater into Beaver Meadows, a large wetlands west of the city limits.

The city received the notice of violation after the DEC became aware that the city was purposely allowing the discharging of untreated water — mostly rainwater — through a manhole cover on Butterfield Drive.

The city continues to work with the DEC on its plan to resolve the issue, Water Superintendent Vicky L. Murphy said Monday.

The city had already submitted the "Offset Plan" but must resubmit it after receiving some "general comments" about it last week, she said.

Once the DEC approves the offset plan, the city can resume approving sewer permits for new development.

The city is getting advice from its consultant, GHD, Engineering, Syracuse, and has brought in another consultant, Flow Management Workgroup, to help with the Offset Plan.

The city can use what is called "sewer banks," in which the city can get one-third credit for inflow and infiltration remediation projects that can later be used for sewer connections for new development.

For instance, the city replaced 63 manhole covers and received credit for 12,500 gallons per day that can be used for about 4,000 gallons per day for a sewer connection for new development.

GHD and Flow Management Workgroup plan to provide guidance "on what they have seen regarding sewer banks so we can mimic what other cities have done which should be acceptable to the DEC," Murphy said.

There are five projects in the city affected by the sewer connection moratorium.

They are three new houses, a proposed car wash on Arsenal Street and a 120-unit affordable housing project on Commerce Drive.

The town of Watertown also is dealing with discharging untreated wastewater into the basin and must put together its own plan to resolve the issue.

Town of Watertown officials acknowledge that they cannot issue sewer permits until the town's offset plan also is approved.

The situation is impacting several new development projects in the town.