MERIDEN — Kenmere Reservoir, a city water supply located two miles north of the city’s boundary in Berlin, has been contaminated by nutrients seeping out of failed septic systems of two vacant residential homes located next to the reservoir.
For several years, the city’s Water Department has mitigated the contamination by treating the reservoir with chemicals, and now, outgoing Public Utilities Director Dennis Waz is asking the City Council to spend $165,000 to purchase and raze the vacant homes at 61 and 71 Kenmere Road.
“The city would have no intent to use these properties other than to mitigate the nutrients seeping out of the septic system that affect our reservoir, that cause us to have to treat with certain chemicals that we would prefer not to spend money on and get a more pure water supply,” Council Majority Leader David Lowell explained during a discussion at this week’s City Council meeting.
Kenmere Reservoir is a little over two miles north of the Meriden town line in Berlin and is considered a major public water supply.
The council was scheduled to vote this week on whether to approve the $165,000, however, the issue was referred to the council’s Public Works Committee after councilors raised several questions, including why the city didn’t pursue a solution sooner.
‘Where was the city?’
“There’s been a leaking problem from the septic system on those two properties for a number of years. Where was the city?” said We the People Councilor Walter Shamock, the most vocal opponent of the Water Division’s request. “Where was the lawsuit...if it’s leaking into our public water supply. I don’t understand this.”
Shamock also raised concerns about additional costs if the city buys the property and becomes responsible for removing the septic tanks and treating any soil contamination.
According to the town of Berlin’s GIS system, the 1.4-acre property at 71-61 Kenmere Road is owned by Houston-based Reserve Mortgage Solutions Inc.
“Before we jump into something like this, the onus is on the property owner to remedy that situation before we take the property,” Shamock said. “Once we sign the deed, the onus is on us to take care of it. I think the city’s getting into a bad situation here … It can be very expensive to pick up those tanks with contaminated soil. I’ve been through this on two other properties with the city of Meriden, and one cost over $150,000 for contaminated soil.”
City Manager Tim Coon told councilors that he doesn’t have any information on possible soil contamination but said he will investigate the issue and others raised by councilors before the purchase is discussed by the Public Works Committee later this month.
Waz, who didn’t attend this week’s council meeting, could not be reached for comment.
One of the homes on the property, built in 1945, is one story and approximately 1,155 feet, according to town records. The other home, built in 1953, is also one story with about 2,046 square feet.
Reverse Mortgage Solutions Inc. took ownership of the property in December 2017 for $218,648. Elaine Duckett is listed on town records as the prior owner. She bought the property in 2002.
Democratic City Councilor Brian Daniels questioned whether there might be options for the city other than purchasing the private land.
“It just sounds odd that there aren’t all sorts of other remedies besides the city paying to buy a property that’s got a problem and the city fixing the problem when it seems like there should be all sorts of legal remedies,” he said.
Daniels pointed out that if a property in Meriden had similar issues affecting the water supply, the city could go in and fix the issue and recoup the costs from the property owner. In this case, Daniels questioned whether the state may intervene since it’s outside the city’s boundaries.
Fellow Democrat Bruce Fontanella questioned why the city would have to pay $165,000 for the property if the homes are considered uninhabitable and have failed septic systems. Lowell said the fair market for the property is listed at $178,000 and it was recently appraised at $165,000.