Minutes of the July 15, 2010 special meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in Conference Room 6A at 79 Elm Street, Hartford.  

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

Chair Wagner convened the meeting at 11:03 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.

Chair Wagner asked if there were revisions to the minutes of the May 26, 2010 meeting. There was none. VanCor moved to approve the minutes; second by Brooks. All voted in favor with Beach, Fernandez and Mandyck abstaining because they had been absent at that meeting. Sherman arrived after the vote.

Chair’s Report

Chair Wagner began by asking those Council members and staff present to introduce themselves for the benefit of those attending in the audience. Chair Wagner said this was a special meeting called primarily to discuss the contamination problem in Tylerville as it relates to the way such problems are handled by state government.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener said that his report can wait until the regular July meeting, but that prior to adjournment he would like to confirm future agendas.

Citizen Complaints

Wagner said that it would be appropriate to take up the other Haddam contamination issues first, before taking up Tylerville, as they would be brief reports.

Higganum Cove – Wagener said that $200,000 had been made available by the State Bond Commission in 2005. The DEP commissioned a Remedial Action Plan for the Higganum Cove location. This plan, which is nearly complete, will reportedly provide guidance for a potential buyer of the site. The site was also added to a list published by the Connecticut Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (CBRA) of sites that are available for redevelopment. The Brownfield Redevelopment Authority is a self-sustaining subsidiary of the Connecticut Development Authority that can offer loans and tax increment financing to businesses interested in restoring brownfields for new uses.

Higganum Center – Wagener said that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued orders in 1989 for the provision of potable water to many locations in Higganum Center. At that time a potential source of contamination of some groundwater was believed at the time to be the Department of Transportation (DOT) garage on Candlewood Hill Road. Wagener said that Haddam residents had spoken at the Haddam forum about the desirability of the town acquiring the site, given its location, but the DOT has no plans to stop using it or to transfer it. He noted, however, that it appears on the CBRA’s website which would lead someone to conclude incorrectly that it might be available. He said that locations that appear on the CBRA website are there because towns identified them as contaminated properties; the sites are not necessarily available for purchase and/or remediation. A more accurate list is expected in the fall from the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of Brownfield Remediation and Development.

Tylerville -- Wagener said that after the last meeting he had requested from the DEP staff the amount that had been spent on the potable water program and for the amount of financial penalties that had been collected in by the DEP’s Remediation Division in recent years. This information is taking longer to produce than originally anticipated. He said that the balance of the state’s superfund is scheduled to be spent at the Newhall site in Hamden, where 250 homes are subject to remediation as a consequence of being built on contaminated fill. The state is paying 20 million of an estimated 70 million total cost, and that work might begin this summer.

Wagener asked to make some observations on the record as a way of introducing the Tylerville documents:

1) It was his observation that individual DEP staff members have huge workloads, work hard and takes their responsibilities seriously. The problems that have become apparent in Tylerville are systemic and not due to lack of effort.

2) As the Council said in its annual report, there are two ways of evaluating remediation efforts. There is some level of success in keeping people separated from contamination. The goal of redeveloping contaminated areas has met with less success; he does not think there is one person inside or outside of state government who is satisfied with the current laws and programs aimed at brownfield redevelopment, and there is always a task force or working group seeking solutions for questions of liability, funding, etc. It has been a challenge for Council staff to focus on the remediation challenges without veering into brownfield redevelopment challenges, but they have tried to stay focused on what needs to be done to protect communities that are known to have contamination.

3) He is not sure what, if anything, can be done to speed up action in Tylerville now that it is getting attention. It I easy to see how actions could have been speeded in the past, and he is not optimistic that the Tylerville pattern will be avoided in other communities because of systemic problems. Chair Wagner said that is why it is important to get an understanding of the problem.

Members discussed the history of the Tylerville case, and potential failings or loopholes in existing regulations, including drinking water regulations.

Brooks expressed reservations about extrapolating from the failures in Tylerville to a broader critique of the system. She would like to see other examples to bolster the case. Sherman cited the example of the UConn landfill from years ago that was in many aspects similar. He added that the Council’s role is to point out problems and poor performance and should not hold to a standard of proof that would be expected in a courtroom. VanCor and Mandyck said that the letter can point out the problem, and change the assertion of a systemic failure to a question. Fernandez suggested the “reasonable man” test was appropriate as to the level of evidence the Council needed to act. Fernandez also said the problem involves more parts of state government than the DEP and should be addressed to the governor rather than the commissioner. Discussion continued on to whom should the letter be sent and what language changes are needed. The consensus was that two letters should be sent, one to the Governor and the other to the commissioners of the DEP and DPH. Members agreed that after the letters identifying the problem are sent, the Council should subsequently offer recommendations. Another draft was requested to be circulated to the Council members prior to the July 28 meeting, when the case would again be on the agenda.

Mandyck asked staff to keep the Council informed if there are any more developments regarding enforcement or other activity affecting Tylerville. Wagener listed speakers and agenda items to be expected at Council meetings in the next two months. Members concurred that they would like to hear from Environment and Human Health, Inc. on the emerging issue of outdoor wood furnaces. Wagener said that he had been receiving comments from people who, knowing of the Council’s ongoing interest in remediation issues, would like to speak to the Council from various viewpoints; members concurred that it would be good to hear from them at the appropriate time, perhaps after the Council makes some programmatic recommendations. Brooks reminded members of the commitment to hear from interested parties on the problems of wetlands training and also ATVs. There was also some discussion of noise enforcement, especially the lack of it. Sherman repeated his request that speakers provide a written summary prior to their appearance; members agreed.

Lisa Wadge, a resident of Haddam spoke from the audience. She thanked the Council for its attention to this matter, but reminded the members that it had been a year since the Citizens for Clean Groundwater (CCG) brought its complaint to the Council. In that year, she said, nothing has changed, but her members were told continually to wait: for the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment to be completed, for the deadlines affecting the Sibley Company, and for the DEP and DPH to make presentations to the CEQ. She asked what she should tell the CCG members.

There being no further business the meeting was adjourned at 12:33 PM.