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Aquarion Details High Capacity Water Tanks Plan for North Ave.

By James Lomuscio

The 1.5 million gallon water tank on North Avenue across from Staples High School has served Westport well since it was built in 1956, Aquarion Water Company officials said tonight.

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Jeff Ulrich, director of supply operations at Aquarion Water Company, addresses tonight’s meeting.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Martlow for WestportNow.com

But now the steel structure is in poor condition with a rusted roof “and in desperate need of rehabilitation,” Mark Fois, Aquarion senior engineer, told 16 persons in the Town Hall auditorium.

“Currently there is no way to take it out of service to provide maintenance, so what we’re proposing is a replacement tank next to it,” Fois said.

The replacement tank planned is actually two cement tanks, twin tanks each with a 2.5 million gallon capacity. A total capacity 5 million gallons would address future storage needs based on town growth, Fire Department needs and overall usage, Fois said.

The plan, which Aquarion aims to have on the Planning and Zoning Commission’s July 20 agenda, drew praise from Fire Chief Robert Yost.

“Thank you for increasing the capacity,” said Yost.

A couple who live next door to the site, however, were not pleased.

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The Aquarion Water Company site on North Avenue opposite Staples High School. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Marlow for WestportNow.com

Andrew and Jennifer Kobetitsch who bought their home at 69 North Ave. 15 years ago, raised a number of concerns. One was the loss of open space since they said a one-acre water company buffer they had enjoyed would be used for the new construction.

“We’ve never run out of water in Westport,” Andrew Kobetitsch said. “Why do we need to quadruple the amount?”

His wife warned about the potential danger to area residents if the 5 million gallon tanks were to burst.

Fois said that engineers would perform due diligence to ensure safety. He also said there would be plantings to mitigate the twin tanks’ visual impact on the neighborhood.

“It is our obligation to do that,” he said. “We are going to do our best to be good neighbors.”

The need for increased water capacity was explained earlier by Jeff Ulrich, Aquarion’s director of supply operations. He said the 36-month period from November 2013 to 2016 represented “the second greatest drought in 100 years.” The worst period was during the 1960s.

And though last year’s severe drought is over and reservoirs are full, “We have to make up because we are still 30 inches (of rainfall) behind over the last 36 months,” Ulrich said.

Meanwhile, Aquarion is staring down streamflow regulations expected to take effect in 10 years, Ulrich said. The regulations will require the water company to release 15 million gallons a day from its reservoirs, he said, to replenish sensitive aquifers and wetlands downstream.

Then there is the problem of in Westporters overusing water, he said. Most of the water is going for outside irrigation, as all new large homes have lawn sprinklers built in, Urlich said.

Aquarion’s average customer in Connecticut uses 83 gallons per day. Westport it is 124 gallons daily, he said.

Ulrich said that the water company has worked with the municipalities of Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan and Darien to limit irrigation to two days per week.

“Our primary purpose is for health and safety,” Urlich said. “The grass will survive. Two days a week (for irrigation) will be plenty.”

Alan Huth, Aquarion’s manager of utility pipe, spoke about major water main replacements and planned improvements.

They include replacing and upgrading 1,400 feet of 16-inch diameter, cast iron pipe laid along Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue in 1920.

Also on the agenda is the installation of 2,000 feet of new 16-inch pipe along Maple Avenue and Main Street, replacing cast iron pipe there since 1910.

Huth said Aquarion also aims to replace 9,000 feet of 12-inch pipe along Newtown Turnpike near Crooked Mile Road and Cavalry Road, and to clean and reline 4,875 feet of pipe on Long Lots Road, Post Road East and Turkey Hill.

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