Aquarion’s Looming Tanks

To the Editor:

Westport needs more water. On this, we take Aquarion at their word. In fact, at last year’s Planning and Zoning Commission Hearing, our own Fire Marshall agreed. His testimony was compelling: Without more water storage capacity, our firefighters’ ability to ensure our safety and protect our homes and businesses could be impaired.

What concerns us, however, is that Aquarion seems determined to increase capacity by shoehorning two new and enormous tanks onto a narrow plot of land on North Avenue. These industrial structures will soar roughly 40 feet in height, dwarfing the surrounding homes and indelibly changing the character of that historic neighborhood. These tanks will not only cover almost an acre of land, but will create an incongruent eyesore, staining the landscape for decades to come and impairing the value of homes in the entire neighborhood.

The neighbors, who were not given notice of this project until it was well under way, have been trying to negotiate with Aquarion for months, pleading with Aquarion to consider alternative sites, or, at the very least, to lower the height of the tanks and eliminate the domed tops. But flat-topped tanks are more expensive and Aquarion is playing hardball. Last week, it delivered its final word on the subject: No reduction in height and no getting rid the domes.

Why is Aquarion doing this? Money, of course. The same reason that Aquarion probably didn’t consider alternative sites. In fact, Aquarion has been less than forthcoming about that issue. When the P&Z asked that question at the public hearing, Aquarion explained that an alternate site on Bayberry Lane was not feasible for myriad reasons.

What Aquarion failed to disclose to the P&Z and the public is that there ARE other feasible sites, including one on town-owned property that could easily have accommodated one of the tanks, though it will cost more to build there.

It’s important to note that one of the major justifications that Aquarion has been using to justify the construction of the big tanks is that the tall tanks are needed to increase pressure at 15 fire hydrants in town that it tested and that don’t meet ISO standards for water pressure. This turns out to be a canard. Even if Aquarion builds the tall tanks, its own projections show that only four of those hydrants will improve. The other 11 will continue to suffer from poor pressure.

We believe that Aquarion should accommodate the neighbors’ requests and go back to the drawing board. After all, this is a capital project that will have a useful life of 100 years. It deserves more consideration. And it is unfair for our North Avenue neighbors to bear the burden being thrust upon them by Aquarion, especially as the additional water capacity will benefit our entire community.

The North Avenue neighbors have filed an appeal with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) and they need our support. They—and we—deserve better.

Valerie Seiling Jacobs and Ian Warburg

Co-Chairs, Save Westport Now