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Tempers Flare at Task Force

The mood turned toxic at the April 29 meeting of the Wastewater Management Committee Septic System Education Task Force (WMC-SSETF). Committee members Wendy Batteau and Helen Martin Block clashed over paying students to produce and direct videos that Block scripted. Watteau questioned whether it was a conflict of interest.

The Long Island Sound Futures Fund granted the WMC-SSETF $6,000 for projects to promote the importance of proper septic system management and maintenance. Block wants to use $1,500 of it for a “mockumentary” and a public service announcement prepared by Staples High School seniors Michael Holmes and Walter Kosner. “It's right there in the grant,” said Block in defense of her decision, adding, “It would be disingenuous to say I don't have an intellectual interest in this.” As the dispute escalated, both committee members?????? submitted their resignations and both were refused.

The grant proposal included plans for informational brochures, radio and cable television public service announcements, a mockumentary, a septic system scale model and enhancements to the Westport Weston Health District's website. All of the items paid for by the grant are intended to educate homeowners on how to properly maintain septic systems that won't pollute the area's aquifers.

WMC-SSETF Chairman Jonathan Steinberg said the committee will determine how much to pay for the videos. He hopes to screen them at Eco-Fest, May 22, 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., at the Levitt Pavilion, 40 Jesup Road. Eco-Fest is an outdoor music festival to promote environmentally conscious initiatives.

The mockumentary and video public service announcement created by the students could also air on Staples Television Network channel 78 or Westport cable access channel 79, Steinberg said. He added that the videos could be taken to any number of educational events as well.

The WMC-SSETF also got its first look at the scale ????mmo?d?e?l? ?o?f? ?t?h?e? septic system to be premiered at Eco-Fest. ?Only?? ?t?h?e components of the ???????model were completed, but task force members were able to see how they will eventually fit together. The model will hold a self-contained water course as it flows through a septic system and into an aquifer. The model is one of the projects funded by the grant underwriting the mockumentary and public service announcement.?

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