Construction officially began Wednesday on a $100 million upgrade to the
Mattabassett District sewer treatment plant that will increase its capacity help
keep Long Island Sound clean.

Mattabassett board of directors Chairman William Candelori said the plant
expansion will have huge benefits for the three current member towns as well as
Middletown, which has been approved to join Berlin, Cromwell and New Britain in the district.

Construction company C.H Nickerson was awarded the construction contract for
$93.48 million. The Mattabassett board also signed contracts with engineering
firm Wright-Pierce for up to $7.67 million and construction administrator Milone
& MacBroom for up to $2.98 million.

The state will contribute $22.9 million for the project through the  Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Clean Water Fund. The rest of the costs will be paid for by ratepayers in the four towns.

“This project is a very big deal not only for Mattabassett, its ratepayers and its constituent communities, but for every Connecticut resident who is concerned about the environmental health and welfare of Long Island Sound,” Candelori said at a groundbreaking ceremony Wendesday morning.

DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty said the construction project is “a huge win
from an environmental point of view.”

“This is a project that is going to benefit everyone who lives in the state of Connecticut and everyone out on the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound,”
Esty said. “It’s going to be a huge contribution to quality of life in Connecticut in the decades ahead.”

The district is under a mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the amount of nitrogen in treated water that is discharged from the plant into the Connecticut River. Nitrogen encourages the growth of algae, which consumes oxygen in the water, destroying habitats for other plant and animal life.

Construction will draw up to 200 workers to the site during peak work, and will last about three years, said C.H. Nickerson President Jon Miller.

Sewer rates will increase because of the new construction, but officials said adding Middletown would spread costs among a larger number of ratepayers and keep individual increases to a minimum.

Adding Middletown to the district will also allow the city to decommission
and demolish its own sewer treatment plant on River Road, freeing up valuable
riverfront property for future development.