Community meeting to address Saugatuck sewage leak

WESTPORT — Westporters and neighboring residents are invited to a community conversation following the Saugatuck River sewage leak that took place over the weekend.

The meeting, organized by Representative Town Meeting District 1 candidate TJ Elgin, will take place at 4 p.m. Monday at the scene of the incident — near the Interstate 95 overpass and Black Duck restaurant — and include comments from state officials and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, according to the event page.

The sewage leak, which was caused by an aging pipe in the process of being repaired, led to a Westport health advisory late Saturday that advised discontinuing swimming in Saugatuck River and the town’s coastal waters. Beaches in Norwalk and Fairfield also banned swimming, with plans to test water quality on Monday.

The leak has since been stopped and temporary pumps are in place to utilize a newly installed pipe. In a statement released Monday afternoon, the Westport Fire Department said new permanent pumps were on schedule to be completed in two weeks.

“We believe that the quick action on the part of the DPW to shut down the pumps, isolate the area by closing valves, and immediately using vacuum trucks followed by larger trailer mounted pumps was a contributing factor to minimizing the spill,” Assistant Fire Chief Matthew Cohen said.

All beaches in Norwalk and Westport are still closed to swimming, including Sherwood Island State Park. While Lake Mohegan in Fairfield remains open, other swimming areas in that town will remain closed until sample results indicate acceptable water quality.

Westport-Weston Health District Director Mark Cooper said his staff spent Monday morning collecting water samples at the beaches.

The water samples have since been transported to the lab for testing, which typically takes a 24-hour process to review. Residents are advised to not swim in the beaches until results are available and it’s confirmed to be safe.

Cooper said lab testers were notified beforehand of the incoming samples to help expedite the process.

“It’s possible we may hear by the end of the day, but I’m more confident we will hear by tomorrow morning,” he said.

State Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, said while he not sure if he could attend the meeting, he was grateful to the swift and professional response by public health professioanls and Westport leaders.

“Although Westport residents are rightly frustrated by the closure of beaches, this decision was made out of an abundance of caution,” he said. “Thankfully drinking water was not impacted, and experts will continue testing the beaches at Compo and Sherwood Island to determine when swimming can resume safely.”