Minutes of the August 26, 2009 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Holcombe Conference Room of 79 Elm St. Hartford, CT.  

PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), Howard Beach, Janet Brooks, Richard Sherman, John Mandyck, Norman VanCor, Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).

Chair Wagner convened the meeting at 9:09 AM. A quorum was present.

Chair Wagner announced that Executive Director Wagener was absent today due to a death in his family (his father).


Chair Wagner asked if there were any clarifications or revisions of the minutes of the meeting of July 22th 2009. There were none. VanCor motioned to approve. It was seconded by Brooks and approved by vote with Beach and Mandyck VanCor abstaining, for reason of having been absent at the July meeting.

Chair’s Report

Chair Wagner began the meeting by referencing the letter from Governor M. Jodi Rell regarding the action of the Council in calling attention to the existence of state owned roadside “scenic strips” that are not in a central data base and therefore have been largely forgotten. The Governor announced the formation of an interagency panel to identify all these strips and formulate policy regarding them. The Council was invited to participate and it was the sense of the Council to do.

Chair Wagner noted that there had been an article in the Hartford Courant and other media about the strips, and that a follow-up on the larger topic of scenic resources might be an appropriate topic for an OP-ED article. Mandyck said that the history of the scenic strips is an example of the Council doing the job it was created to do. Brooks and Sherman pointed out that the story of the scenic strips discovery is one more example of the fact that the Council is more than a watchdog on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This issue involved only the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Siting Council and had nothing to do with the DEP. 

The publication of an article in the Hartford Advocate on the morning of the meeting was noted. Although the article was strongly in support of the continued existence of the Council, it noted that most people had no idea of the important function that the Council serves. Chair Wagner said that staff should make sure members of groups like land trusts and wetland agencies are receiving Council announcements. She said she would like to receive Executive Director Wagener’s ideas, when he returns next week, on communicating with the general public.

Executive Director’s Report

Environmental Analyst Hearn delivered the report in Wagener’s absence.

Environmental Monitor and land transfers. Hearn described format changes that had been made to the Environmental Monitor as a consequence of the addition of state land transfers to the public notices required to be published in the Environmental Monitor. One change was to clearly identify to the reader which step of the possible five steps in the land transfer notice process that a parcel is in. The other change was to move some of the general information about the transfer process to the top of the transfer section to save space and duplication costs. In the original layout that information accompanied each transfer notice. Hearn invited Council members to offer feedback now or at any future time on the changes or to suggest ways to improve what had been done.

Proposed Generic Environmental Classification Document. The comments suggested by the Council in the July meeting were submitted to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) in response to the draft revised environmental classification document (ECD). This week staff received a request to meet with OPM staff to further discuss those ideas. A meeting will be set for next week and the Council will receive a report at the next Council meeting.

Citizen Complaints

Aquifer contamination in the Tylerville area of Haddam – Brief Update.  Hearn reminded the Council of the history of the complaint and Ms. Lisa Wadge’s appearance at the July Council meeting. Since that meeting Wagener met again with Ms. Wadge to discuss in greater detail the specifics of questions she raised regarding contamination, the frequency of testing, the requirements for testing, and enforcement orders for suspected polluters. As a consequence of that meeting Wagener submitted a detailed list of questions to the DEP and is awaiting a response.

Other Complaints. A Member of the audience raised her hand and asked if she could bring an issue before the Council before it moved on to other business. The Council agreed to hear a short presentation. She identified herself as Ann Marie Mitchell of Hawleyville Environmental Advocacy Team (HEAT). She described a situation at 30 Hawleyville Rd. where a waste disposal company was filling land adjacent to a wetland on property owned by a railroad. Although a cease and desist order had been issued by town officials the filling was still going on and it is her belief that there are plans to expand the operation to receive and treat old tires and creosote.

Hearn asked what state permits, if any, are required and whether they have been obtained. Brooks said that because of the existence of the railroad in the situation, there may be an issue of federal preemption. The Council recommended that staff schedule a meeting with Ms. Mitchell to discuss the situation in greater detail.

Review of State Agency Actions

Expansion of Service on Shoreline East. Hearn reported that the summer meeting of the shoreline advisory committee (membership includes the DEP, the DOT and the Marine Trades Association) was held this month. A draft expanded bridge opening schedule was distributed. This proposed plan would increase service by 6 new round trips to New London on weekdays and 5 on weekends.  Participants were told to return comments on the proposal by October 10th. Staff is continuing to monitor this since it was raised as a citizen concern at the Council’s New London Public Forum.

Old Saybrook Wastewater Project. Hearn provided a brief summary of the comments sent to the DEP regarding the establishment of a wastewater management district that included the installation of alternative treatment systems for individual households. He summarized the DEP’s response to those comments. Hearn pointed out that at this point, despite skepticism about the technology by many environmental groups, the project appears to be going forward because the town voted to approve the funds. He introduced Margaret Miner of the Rivers Alliance and Dennis Greci of the DEP to speak about the project. The Council had numerous questions about the technologies, the monitoring that would be in place and the enforcement mechanisms that would be needed to guarantee proper operation. All questions were answered by Miner and Greci. There was great concern about the continued, effective operation of the treatment systems. VanCor mentioned the Council’s prior recommendation to enact a moratorium on these systems until they could be monitored properly and the existing ones proven effective. Brooks asked if staff could provide a history of Council suggestions about alternative treatment systems for the next meeting. Mandyck suggested that the concerns of the Council regarding the management of the Old Saybrook plan be voiced in a letter to the DEP before the “delegation document” is approved. The “delegation document” is the document in which the management plan is outlined. Members concurred.

Discussion of Annual Report

Proposed Changes. The board discussed the proposal to change the leading indicators to indicators of sustainability. A decision on this and other possible changes was postponed until the next meeting.

Indicator of the Month. The Council liked the idea of a presentation at each meeting of what goes into the creation of an indicator. However due to time constraints at this meeting the discussion of the air indicators was postponed to the next meeting.

Research Reports

Public Act 490. Hearn summarized what the Council staff has learned in a phone survey of selected towns about the process used to designate land as eligible for tax abatement as “open space” (not farmland or forest land) under PA 490. He mentioned that staff learned that the Farm Bureau is also conducting a survey, and that it will be best to wait until all the data on PA 490 has been received by the DEP.  Members agreed.

There being no other business Chair Wagner asked for a motion to adjourn. Mandyck motioned which was seconded by VanCor. The meeting was adjourned at 11:23.