Minutes of the October 26, 2005 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room, 5th Floor, 79 Elm Street, Hartford.

PRESENT:  Thomas Harrison (Chairman), John Mandyck, Earl Phillips, Richard Sherman, Barbara Wagner, Wesley Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director)

Chairman Harrison called the meeting to order at 9:04 AM and determined that a quorum was present. 

Sherman offered a motion to approve the minutes of September 21, 2005.  Second by Mandyck.  Approved unanimously, with Winterbottom abstaining for the reason that he was not present.  In response to a question from Wagener, members decided that the summary of citizens’statements made at the public forum should be posted on the website as part of the minutes.

Harrison said that the required paperwork had been submitted in support of the Council’s request for a second staff position.

Discussion of Diesel Emission Initiative

Harrison introduced Madeleine Weil, Policy Analyst with Environment Northeast, which is a nonprofit organization that focuses on climate, energy and air quality policy in New England.  Ms. Weil presented an overview of the goals and accomplishments of the New England Diesel Initiative that was begun in 2002.  She also presented data on the health impacts of diesel emissions in Connecticut, saying that Fairfield, Hartford, and New Haven counties are in the 80 to 100 percentile of counties for concentrations of diesel-emitted particulates in the air.  Non-fatal health impacts are estimated at $115 million annually.  Diesel-emitted particulates are estimated to cause 200 premature deaths in Connecticut annually.

There are new federal regulations that will take effect with model year 2007 for new road vehicle engines, and 2008 for off-road construction vehicle engines, that will make them 90% cleaner.  However, the long lifespan of existing vehicles means additional action is required.  Public Act 05-7, An Act Establishing a Clean Diesel Plan, requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a plan, which is now the subject of public meetings.  Her organization’s goal is to make the actions recommended in that plan a priority at the legislature in 2006. 

Members had many questions.  Ms. Weil elaborated on the health-impact data and the DEP’s proposed plan.  Wagner asked about the cost and fuel-efficiency impacts to retrofit school buses; Ms. Weil said it can be about $2,000 per bus or up to $10,000 per bus for the “Rolls Royce” solution; and there can be a 2% reduction in fuel efficiency.  Richard Miller, speaking from the audience, asked about the usefulness of biodiesel fuel; Ms. Weil said it needs to be combined with filters to get to the desired emission level.

Harrison and the other members thanked Ms. Weil for her informative presentation.

Citizen Complaints

University of Connecticut water supply and the Fenton River – Harrison described the complaint and asked Richard Miller, Director of Environmental Policy at the University of Connecticut (UConn), to describe the University’s response to the no-flow condition in the Fenton River.

Using slides, Mr. Miller described the relative importance of the Fenton and Willimantic River wellfields to UConn’s water supply, with the former supplying up to 0.84 million gallons per day (GPD) and the latter 2.3 million GPD, based on registered diversions.  He said the University’s water supply is regulated by the Department of Public Health for purity and adequacy, and is subject to all DEP and USEPA requirements.  In general, colleges and universities are scrutinized and regulated much more closely by these agencies than they were five years ago.  In response to a question from Harrison, he said the University was not subject to the DPUC and to the statutory restrictions on use and disposal of water company lands because the University does not meet the definition of a water company.

Miller showed trends in UConn’s water consumption, which showed a long-term decline in demand due presumably to more efficient distribution and fixtures.  In 2003, UConn began a $700,000 study of the Fenton River; because of two wet summers the study was extended.  Because the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) wanted the study to include management recommendations, the report is not yet complete.  It will be released later this year.

The draft recommendations will include one to stop pumping from the Fenton River wellfields when flow gets down to 3 cubic feet per second (CFS).  According to the researchers, the flow would have been down to 1 CFS following the driest August on record.  Pumping caused the flow to go to zero, as shown in photographs.  He said the river is classified by the DEP as flow-impaired, and said the similar Mt. Hope River, which is not pumped, also dried up.

Miller described UConn’s proposed restoration and protection measures.  It will be re-stocking trout.  It is preparing to spend $700,000 to improve the capacity of the pipes from the Willimantic wellfields.  By May 1, it will select a new operator for the water system.

Miller concluded with a description of the newer Master Plan for the East Campus, which calls for preservation and conservation of most of the land, and also UConn’s plans to move the hazardous waste storage facility from the Fenton River watershed to a site near the sewage treatment plant.  The move, however, can not take place until the landfill work is done and the site becomes available.  The new facility will be the subject of an Environmental Impact Evaluation.  Miller also described recent water conservation efforts.

The next speaker was Denise Burchsted, Executive Director of the Naubesatuck Watershed Council, who distributed a handout.  She expressed concern that citizen groups might not be involved in the proposed transfer of the water supply system. Her organization’s other concerns included the 2000 Attorney General’s opinion that UConn is not a water company, the fact that many regulations might not apply to UConn because they do not specifically mention state agencies, and the lack of ongoing public processes regarding the UConn water system operations.

The Watershed Council asked the CEQ to seek clarification of which regulations apply to UConn, to work to create new regulations where existing ones do not apply, and to clarify the public process required in the transfer of water system management and change in use of watershed lands.

Ms. Burchsted also discussed problems with UConn’s environmental programs as they relate to water supply and watershed lands.  She said the University’s water supply plan calls for increasing pumping from the Fenton aquifers to 1.29 million GPD from the current 0.8443.  The plan also projects no increase in the university population.  Also, the master plan for the east campus, while good, is not binding.  She also mentioned that the Fenton River was classified as flow-impaired because of the University’s pumping, and it was her understanding that the Mt. Hope River did not dry up.

Next to speak was Vicky Wetherell of the Willimantic River Alliance, who distributed a letter.  The Alliance is concerned that any plan to increase pumping from the Willimantic wellfields could result in the drying up of that river.  She said that in early September, when the Fenton River tried up, the Willimantic River was down to 2 CFS in Coventry.  Below the dam, the discharge from the sewage treatment plant provided virtually all of the flow on that side of the river.  A watershed-by-watershed approach is not appropriate for the area, which relies on two watersheds for water.  A comprehensive or regional scientific analysis is needed, especially in light of the many development proposals underway.  Ms. Wetherell asked the Council to recommend such a study. 

Harrison introduced Helen Koehn, a member of the Mansfield Town Council.  She said she supported the remarks of the two previous speakers with regard to water supply, and would like to address the proposed transfer of University-owned land to a developer for part of the Storrs downtown project.  She voted in support of the project, but had some questions:  Does such a sale need to go through a competitive bid process?  Does UConn need to get the land appraised?  Must the land be transferred with easements to protect the areas that are supposed to be conserved?  Ms. Koehn also said that OPM says no EIE and no public hearing is required to transfer land.  Finally, she asked if the CEQ received reports from UConn when drinking water watershed lands are converted to new uses.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, said she hoped the Council could support the request she made to the governor to appoint a multi-agency panel to oversee UConn’s environmental practices.  UConn’s efforts to date have not worked.  The Fenton River episode was predictable.  Two specific things that need to be determined is when does the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act apply to University actions, and what can be done to have binding restrictions on the development of “Class I/II –like” lands.

Sherman said many of the ideas presented are good ones, and the solutions exceed the CEQ’s capacity.  The idea of a multi-agency panel might make sense.

There were several questions and answers.  Ms. Burchsted asked Mr. Miller why the water consumption figures exceeded the supply from the Willimantic wellfields when the Fenton wells were shut down; he said the University was drawing from reserves, which can be done for very short periods.  Mr. Miller also responded to other points by saying that the effluent might be even higher quality than the river itself in the Willimantic, but he would check; he would review the flow-impaired questions; and any project involving 25,000 square feet of floor space (not footprint) would require an EIE in watershed areas.

The Council discussed ways in which it might proceed.  Because of the number of major issues on its agenda for the next two months, the Council asked Wagener to summarize the Council’s work ahead and propose a schedule.

Other complaints – Wagener said that the DEP had made no further progress on the Farmington wetlands case. 

Review of State Agency Projects

Proposed Great Path Magnet School at Manchester Community College – Wagener said that the EIE for this project, which involves land previously built upon, was adequate.  The only action with potential impact was deleted after scoping.

Discussion of topics heard at September 21 public forum in Torrington

Wagener referred to the summary of issues that had been distributed prior to the meeting.  Detailed discussion was postponed because of the need to adjourn by noon.  Wagener noted that some action had occurred on the complaint about the use of street-sweepings as fill.

Chairman Harrison adjourned the meeting at 11:55 AM.