Minutes of the May 26, 2010 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Holcombe Conference Room at 79 Elm Street, Hartford.  

PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), Howard Beach, Janet Brooks, Bruce Fernandez, Karyl Lee Hall, Richard Sherman, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst), Christopher Cech (Intern).

Chair Wagner convened the meeting at 9:05 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.

Chair Wagner asked if there were revisions needed to the minutes of the April 27, 2010 meeting. There was none. Fernandez moved that the minutes be adopted. Seconded by Sherman and approved by vote of all except Brooks who abstained because she had been absent at that meeting.

Chair’s Report

Chair Wagner said that she wished to move immediately to the Executive Director’s Report.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener began by introducing Christopher Cech, the summer intern at the Council.

Wagener reported that the Annual Report had been published online, the chair’s letter had gone to the governor, and that the PDF format had been revised to make it simpler for readers using that format to print out the pages they wished. Wagener said that a one page summary of the report had also been published and distributed to legislators. Wagener mentioned the media coverage of the report and the memo, distributed previously, that summarized feedback to date.

He mentioned that an extensive article on the problems with training of municipal inland wetlands agencies had appeared in the Connecticut Mirror. It drew heavily on the Council’s special report Swamped . The story was subsequently printed by at least two other papers.

Wagener reported on new revisions to the Council’s budget which left $3,634 for non-personnel expenses. He reported briefly on the legislative session that just concluded. He noted that the wetlands bills did not pass, nor did the preserved land registry bill. A compromise version of the legislation aimed at streamlining DEP procedures was adopted. Lastly, Wagener noted the energy bill that passed but was vetoed by the Governor. Wagener said he would have a more complete summary at a future meeting.

Citizen’s Complaints

Tylerville contamination – Chair Wagner said that the Council had received complaints regarding the contamination of groundwater in the Tylerville section of Haddam and that Patrick Bowe, Director of the Remediation Division of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), was present with his staff to speak about that problem and the DEP’s responses.

Sherman requested that whenever an agency appears with a presentation that is technical in nature documents relevant to the presentation be provided to the Council prior to the meeting so they may be studied and useful questions framed. Hall agreed.

Mr. Bowe began his presentation by thanking the Council for the opportunity to present information about the contamination situation in Tylerville that he believed had been missing from the information that the Council had received so far. He introduced a number of DEP staff and staff from the state’s Department of Public Health and local agencies.

He asked Robert Bell, Assistant Director of the Division to speak next. Mr. Bell began with an overview of the programs that exist for dealing with various kinds of pollution problems. He discussed the Transfer Act, RCRA corrective actions, CERCLA, the State Superfund program, the potable water program, the voluntary remediation program, and the Significant Environmental Hazard statute.

Mr. Bell introduced Aaron Green, supervisor of the site assessment and support unit (formerly called the Leaking Underground Storage Tanks Unit). Mr. Green described the work of the unit.

Mr. Bell resumed his presentation explaining that in Tylerville the area of groundwater contamination spans 250 acres and includes residential, commercial and industrial uses. Jon Goldman of the DEP offered a brief explanation of the geology of the area. Mr. Bell continued with a history of the releases of chlorinated solvents and methyl tertiary butyl ether ( MTBE) in the area and their potential sources. He said the DEP is in the first stage of a three stage investigation of the area. Mr. Bell said the levels in Tylerville are far above acceptable levels. This has necessitated one of the state’s largest programs to provide potable water. Sixty-five properties are now monitored by the state or the Chatham Health District for toxics in their drinking water. He said eighteen or nineteen are on publicly-funded water filters. In response to a question from Sherman about the protocols for testing, Mr. Bell said that the samples are analyzed at the Department of Public Health (DPH) lab or at certified private labs.

William Warzecha, who is in charge of the DEP’s potable water program, explained how the filters work and how they are tested and replaced. He said that the law allows for the installation of filters by the state in residences but not on commercial establishments unless the owner cannot be found. Brooks asked if there had been cases of pollution “breaking through” the filters. Warzecha said no, but that MBTE did not easily adhere to the charcoal due to its solubility. Hall asked if the Department of Public Health has a role in the oversight of commercial establishments and Mr. Warzecha answered that it does have a role for restaurants. Hall asked if wastewater from filtered locations is also filtered to prevent re-contamination of the ground water by the low level contaminants that remained in the water. She was told that this water is not filtered. Wagener asked if new construction is also provided filters by the state. He was told they are not because the program is an emergency program; a local health district may require filters in new construction in areas where there is a contamination risk. Fernandez asked if regular testing would be required in such a case. Mr. Warzecha said not necessarily, but that a new location could be added to the list of locations being tested by the DEP. Fernandez pointed out that contamination that was left untreated since the 1980’s is having an effect therefore on some new locations and perhaps more if the plume expands.

Chair Wagner thanked the DEP staff for the history of the contamination of the site and the methods being used to deal with it. She asked if the focus of the rest of the presentation could be on the specifics of the complaint that had come to the Council regarding the need for remediation. Mr. Bell said that remediation can be difficult because of the science and the law. He said that the existing contamination in the ground in the Tylerville is a difficult challenge and that studies need to be undertaken to locate the concentrations and determine the best methods to deal with it.

Mr. Green explained what actions had been taken at one of the two gas stations that had been linked to MBTE contamination in the ground water and where it stands in the three phase investigation process. Hall asked if there is a time limit in the investigation and remediation process. Mr. Green said the end is when the site is in compliance with the remediation standard regulations (RSR) and that will depend on what is found and what is the best remedy. Hall asked if this means that there is no timeline for when the remediation shall be in place that can be identified now; Mr. Green said that is correct. Beach added that remediation at a gas station in his town took 20 years, and pointed out the need to start drawing down the groundwater to create ac one and stop the spread of the plume. Mr. Green said an interim venting system is in place. Beach then asked if air pollution controls are installed when aeration and ventilation methods are being used to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs). He was told they are not.

Hall pressed again on the question of the time that passes before a remedy is required to be put in place. Mr. Goldman said that the remedy can’t be put in place until the nature and extent of contamination is known. Mr. Bell said that sometimes there is no technology to effectively remedy a situation – even if money were not an object. Mr. Bowe said there is no statutory deadline, and added that this can be a frustration among the employees in the division. There are no statutory deadlines and, if orders are issued, the polluters can use the administrative appeals process and the courts to drag out remediation. Once this happens the process is very costly to the DEP because of the number of personnel that will be involved in the process and the time each must invest. This process is also costly in terms of the resources that are taken away from other projects.

Sherman asked Mr. Bowe if there are regulatory or statutory changes he would like to see implemented. Mr. Bowe said that the DEP had suggested two changes that were repeatedly rejected by the legislature. One was to make it illegal for a consultant to lie to the DEP. The other was to require testing of wells when a property is sold. In response to Hall’s line of questioning Mr. Bell said that the only deadlines for clean-up in the law are the recently enacted regulations that allow the DEP to require the owner of a site to complete a study of a contaminated property within two years and to initiate clean-up within three years. The failure of the owner of the Sibley site to complete an investigation within two years is the subject of a notice of violation, and the DEP is deliberating the next step.

Regarding the larger Tylerville question, Mr. Bell said the DEP would be wrapping up the Phase I assessment this month, and Phase II and Phase III reports would follow. Under best-case circumstances, a pretty fast clean-up would take 15 years.  If a clean-up is limited by the inability of technology to be effective, it could take 100 years.

Mr. Bell said that one remedy in Tylerville that is being considered is to bring in a water supply from outside the area to supply the affected homes. Chair Wagner asked the representatives from the DPH and the Chatham Health District if they could return next month to discuss the public health aspects of this issue and their roles in remediation. Mr. Bowe offered to answer any additional questions that the Council had either by returning or to a Council meeting or responding to individual questions. Lisa Wadge of the Citizens for Clean Ground Water requested from the audience that documents which she had sent to the Council prior to the meeting about this topic could be included in the record of the meeting. Chair Wagner said they would be added to the official record of the meeting which is available in the Council’s office.

At 11:20, Chair Wagner called for a short break before moving on to the rest of the agenda, and resumed the meeting at 11:28.

Updates on Matters Raised at Haddam Public Forum – Wagener referred to the summary table of topics that speakers had raised in Haddam, which included a schedule for staff reports and potential action at upcoming Council meetings. Two citizens were present and asked to speak to update the Council on two issues.

Raul de Brigard, a member of the Connecticut Gateway Commission, spoke about the proposed land swap. The conveyance bill, from which the Haddam swap had been removed, was not adopted by the General Assembly. The bill is expected to be brought back during the special session, which means the Haddam swap provision could return. Mr. de Brigard reported that the Gateway Commission has spoken with the Haddam First Selectman, and indicated that the Commission, which had opposed the swap legislation, would be more than happy to discuss possible restrictions on development on the Tylerville property as a condition of a swap. The Commission also will be communicating a similar message to the DEP. Wagener commented that while the Council has heard from proponents about the importance of the conveyance legislation, members should not forget that there is an established administrative procedure by which the DEP may swap lands, which of course requires the support of the DEP; the administrative process allows for public notice and public comment and potentially a review of the natural resources. Mr. de Brigard said that the Commission had discussed the same point.

Katchen Coley, a member of the Middletown Conservation Commission, spoke as a member of Advocates for a Maromas Plan about the reservoirs and related property at the Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH). She spoke about the successful legislation of that required the DEP to survey the CVH property, and the unsuccessful legislative effort to transfer easements to the DEP, and asked for Council support. Members agreed that the Council will take up the Maromas and CVH questions at one of its next meetings.

Review of State Agency Projects

Wagener said that no comments were required on the two telecommunications towers on the agenda.

Wagener reported that OPM is expected to confer with the Council soon regarding comments on the proposed generic Environmental Classification Documents. Members agreed that Wagener should reinforce the Council’s contention that changes need first to be made to the regulations.

Seaside Regional Center – Wagener referred to the materials that had been emailed in advance of the meeting. Members discussed the question of public access and the possible need for an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE). Sherman made a motion to submit comments to OPM and DPW on the proposed transfer, reiterating the Council’s previous recommendation that the final sale include provisions for permanent easements for public access to the shore. After discussing the DPW’s explanation as to why it does not intend to complete an EIE this time, Hall suggested, and members concurred, including a comment that without being able to see the draft agreement the Council cannot concur that no EIE is required. The motion included the request that staff circulate the comments by email prior to their submittal. Second by Hall. Approved unanimously.

Discussion of the Indicator of the Month was postponed. Under other business, Brooks mentioned that she would like to see research on trends in the number of enforcement orders issued by the DEP, and would also like to revisit the question of notice of Siting Council applications.

Wagner adjourned the meeting at 11:55.