Brookfield is recommending that the Greenridge water contamination problem be solved by extending a recently constructed municipal waterline to the area rather than bringing water in from Newtown.
The proposal, if accepted, would end a long-running controversy about whether state regulators should allow United Water Co. to extend a waterline from Newtown's aquifer to the Greenridge district in Brookfield.
The recommendation also means project costs would be about half as much, saving ratepayers money, municipal officials said.
"It's a far better solution," Brookfield First Selectman Bill Davidson said.
But a United Water representative said the company was skeptical the recommendation could be done and in a timely manner, saying that significant barriers remain.
"We have a very good relationship with Brookfield," company spokesman Steve Goudsmith said. "The first selectman has put together a creative proposal. We understand his thinking about it, but it lacks a supply plan and has legal issues surrounding it."
Brookfield's recommendation comes as the Department of Public Utility Control holds hearings on United Water's plan to extend a waterline from the Pootatuck aquifer in Newtown to Greenridge.
The alternative to United Water's proposal publicly first surfaced during a hearing in New Britain on Tuesday, which were a continuation of a DPUC hearing held weeks ago in Newtown. After listening to the recommendation, state regulators decided to further continue the hearing until August 24.
Brookfield, including the Greenridge district, has long had a contamination problem with its water, specifically with high levels of naturally occurring radium and uranium. Exposure to high levels of uranium over time may lead to kidney damage.
The town recently marked the completion of the Silvermine Water Line, which brought potable water to residents in central Brookfield following a nearly seven-year effort.
Separate from that project is the contamination in Greenridge. Residents who lived there lobbied to have United Water brought in, and the company was eventually asked to solve the problem by extending a waterline from the Pootatuck aquifer to the Brookfield district.
But that plan has come under fire from Newtown officials who cited issues with the regulatory review process and whether enough scientific studies had been done to address aquifer capacity concerns with the Pootatuck.
Brookfield is now suggesting that rather than fighting over that plan, regulators should allow the town to extend the Silvermine line to the junction of Silvermine and Whisconier roads, and then continue south toward Greenridge, a total distance of 1.6 miles.
The extension would not only help serve Greenridge residents but it also would pass by two schools and 77 homes, which also have water problems, and in the future allow them to be served. This option was not available several years ago when Greenridge residents investigated ways to solve its water contamination problem but now is, and should be looked into further, Davidson said.
Among one of the outstanding issues is whether an adequate water supply can be found and connected to the waterline to accommodate the needs of Greenridge residents. Davidson in his recommendation said the Brookfield Water Co. as well as others were committed to acquiring and developing the needed supply.
But Goudsmith said that finding that supply remains questionable.
"Without a substantial supply, then that plan could not be implemented, certainly not quickly," he said. "It goes back to the timing issue. Our customers in Greenrige have contaminated water, and we need to solve the problem for them quickly."
There also are legal issues with Davidson's recommendations, namely due to Greenridge being part of United Water's extended service area. In order for Brookfield Water Co. to serve those customers, the two companies and regulators would have to work out a legal agreement, which also would take time, Goudsmith said.
"We believe that our plan satisfies the requisite of delivering reliable water to our Greenridge customers so they don't have to deal with this contamination any longer," he said.
Additionally, Brookfield's latest proposal is estimated to cost $2 million, about half as much as . But United Water questioned the accuracy of the estimates in the recommendation.
"We do not know if those are numbers are accurate, if they include everything that needs to be included in a plan," Goudsmith said. "It's possible that plan would cost the same or more."
Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra said that the town supports Brookfield's proposal, and believes all the issues raised with the recommendation can be worked out.
"It's much more advantageous," she said. "It's the right solution for Brookfield to try to resolve their water problem."
Llodra said that if after officials examine Brookfield's recommendation and find unsurmountable problems, they still could revisit United Water's plan.
"They still have this option," she said.