Minutes of the February 28, 2007 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room, 79 Elm Street, Hartford.

PRESENT:  Thomas Harrison (Chairman), Howard Beach, John Mandyck, Susan Mendenhall, Earl W, Phillips, Jr., Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Barbara Wagner, Wesley Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Emily VerPloeg (Intern).

Chairman Harrison convened the meeting at 9:05 AM and determined that a quorum was present. 

VanCor made a motion to approve the January 24, 2007 minutes.  Second by Sherman.  Mandyck said the minutes should note that he had recused himself from all discussions involving the Rentschler Field development.  The revised minutes were approved unanimously, with Mendenhall, Wagner, and Beach abstaining because they had not been present.

Chairman’s Report

Chairman Harrison reported that applications for the Environmental Analyst position had been reviewed and interviews were being scheduled. 

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener reported that Governor Rell’s budget proposed a status quo budget for the Council, meaning two staff positions and about $9,500 for other expenses.  He said he testified to the Appropriations Committee, and he and Chairman Harrison would be meeting with the appropriate subcommittee the following week. 

Wagener also discussed the proposed budget for the Department of Environmental Protection and various capital expenditures.  Wagener then updated members on legislation of interest.

Citizen Complaints

Regulation of Alternative On-Site Subsurface Sewage Disposal Systems by the Department of Environmental Protection   Phillips recused himself because of a conflict of interest.  Wagener referred to the memo that had been distributed in advance of the meeting.  He noted that the legislature’s Environment Committee had held public hearings on two related bills, one to establish a procedure to speed up the approval of single-family alternative systems, and one for a one-year moratorium on new systems; Wagener said the bills were not mutually exclusive.  Wagener then reviewed the conclusions in his memo. 

Members discussed several points about the alternative systems and the DEP’s regulation of them.  Several people spoke from the audience, including Margaret Miner of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, Herb Gram of the Citizens for a Clean Hammonasset, and Thomas Cody of Robinson and Cole spoke from the audience.  Mr. Cody suggested that the alternative systems could be used to facilitate smart growth, and that manufacturers would probably be willing to make a presentation to the Council.  Wagener suggested that the Council would never be able to make a determination as to whether or not the systems could treat wastewater effectively, but instead would be focusing on the DEP’s ability to regulate the systems, and members agreed.

Oswald Inglese, Director of the Permitting and Enforcement Division of the DEP’s Bureau of Materials Management & Compliance Assurance answered several questions.  He said the DEP was not opposed to a moratorium if it included flexibility to address ongoing problems.  The DEP would use the moratorium period to review the current state of the regulatory structure, including statutes, fees, and technical matters, but the full review might take more than one year.  The DEP oversees about 400 subsurface systems, of which approximately ten percent are alternative systems, with a staff of six.  None of the six staff positions is supported by the General Fund.  Because application fees do not cover the costs of regulation, other permit fee revenue is being used along with some federal dollars.  In contrast, the DEP spends about four million dollars per year to regulate about 200 surface water discharges.  Inglese noted that systems smaller than 5,000 gallons per day pay no fee, and municipalities get a fifty percent discount by statute.

Warren Herzig, Supervising Sanitary Engineer for the Subsurface and Agriculture section of the above division, explained recent changes in the DEP’s regulation of the alternative systems.  Following Mr. Gram’s reviews of monitoring data, the DEP reviewed the data to identify the nature of the problems.  The systems were doing a good job, in general, with bacteria and Biological Oxygen Demand, and some had problems with nitrogen and phosphorous.  The problems were caused by improper design, inadequate operation and maintenance, equipment failure, and toxic materials in the sewage.  The DEP is working to improve permit conditions to avoid some of those problems.  Several Notices of Violation were issued in November, and some problem systems are coming back on line.  In response to a question from Winterbottom on the requirements for operators, Herzig the answer is determined by a point system, but usually a system requires a Class II operator to be on site several hours a day.

After considerable discussion, Winterbottom made the following motion: 

The Council recommends to the General Assembly enactment of a moratorium on the issuance of new alternative on-site sewage treatment permits for a one-year period to allow the DEP to review and begin revising its regulatory program for alternative systems, with enough flexibility to allow the DEP to address urgent pollution problems.  It further recommends completion of a full report on all of the statutory and regulatory changes that will be necessary for an effective program.

Second by Sherman.  Approved unanimously (noting Phillips’ recusal).

There was also discussion of idea to require the DEP to consider a treatment system’s consistency with the State Plan of Conservation and Development.  Winterbottom noted that a town-built system, if receiving state aid, would have to be consistent, but a privately-built one would not.  Members agreed this topic warranted further investigation and discussion.

Trades of Land or Easements by the Department of Environmental Protection – Members discussed the memo prepared by staff and distributed in advance of the meeting.  Members questioned the legal status of a policy signed by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, and whether it bound the actions of that Commissioner and subsequent commissioners.  The Chairman suggested that he and staff investigate this question further and report back.  Members agreed.

Review of State Agency Actions

Norwich Transportation Facility – Wagener said that he had reviewed the Environmental Impact Evaluation for this project, and concluded that it adequately described the impacts.  He said the project was in apparent conflict with the State Plan of Conservation and Development even though the site was previously developed; the explanation is that the site is labeled a conservation area in the plan because it is within the hundred-year flood zone.  However, because the area was previously developed and that most of the facility would be above the flood zone, he did not believe there was an actual conflict.  Members concurred.

Discussion of annual report topics

Wagener said that completion of all aspects of the report, including the on-line component, would depend on approval by the Finance Advisory Committee of moving funds between accounts.  VanCor reiterated that he would like to have members meet with the designer to discuss certain design alternatives, and Wagener said he thought he could arrange that very soon now that the purchase order for the print version had been approved.

Chairman Harrison adjourned the meeting at 11:35.