These minutes were prepared by staff as a record of what occurred at the meeting. As there was no quorum, these minutes will not be approved at a subsequent meeting.

Minutes of the June 23, 2010 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Holcombe Conference Room at 79 Elm Street, Hartford.  

PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), Karyl Lee Hall, Norman VanCor, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst), Christopher Cech (Intern).

At 9:05 AM Chair Wagner called the meeting to order, but noted that a quorum was not yet present.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener reported that the Council’s comments on the proposed sale of Seaside in Waterford had been submitted.

Wagener noted that environmental consultant Robert Klancko had sent in his annual critique of the Council’s annual report, and that he was scheduled to meet with Mr. Klancko in July. Hall asked staff to forward a copy to all members.

He said that two newspapers had reported on the farmland data from the annual report, and one called for increased efforts by Connecticut to preserve its remaining farmland.

Wagener said that he would provide a summary of important legislation in July, but that he wanted to mention that the group opposed to expansion of a waste transfer station by the Housatonic Railroad in Hawleyville, who had appeared at the Council last August and also spoke at the April public forum in Haddam, had a legislative success. The legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of a bill that would prohibit the permitting of a transfer station in certain situations unless the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had determined there is a need for it.

He announced that the Council has been asked to participate in a task force being convened to determine if a necessity exists for the DEP to adopt additional forest practices regulations. Members said that Wagener should represent the Council, and VanCor expressed an interest in attending some of the meetings.

Wagener said that Mr. Steven Rocco, who had made a brief presentation at the public forum in Haddam, wished to come to the July meeting to speak about the land swap he is proposing with the DEP. Hall said that he already spoke to the Council at the April public forum and questioned the need for him to restate his argument. Wagener said that Mr. Rocco had contacted him and he wished to inform the Council regarding the many environmentally-minded people that he said support the land swap.

Citizen’s Complaints

Chair Wagner reorganized the agenda somewhat to accommodate latecomers.

Pitch Pine Removal on Public Airport Property in Plainville (Agenda Item 5c) – Wagener reported that he had sent the Council a memo about it and it required no further action. The complaint arose from the sale of a privately owned airport to the town of Plainville. The majority of the funding was from the Federal Aviation Administration with some from the state’s Department of Transportation. The sale was subject to a condition that after the sale the owner could remove a stand of trees (pitch pines) on the property to access the sand and gravel. The area had not been mapped as a pitch pine habitat in the DEP’s inventory of natural areas. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was the lead agency. Transfer of an airport’s ownership is a categorical exclusion in FAA regulations and therefore an environmental impact statement is not required under NEPA. The airport was privately owned. Had the owner wished, he could have cut the trees prior to the transfer and there would have been no regulation.

Wagener said that his memo contains some recommendations, one of which the Council had already forwarded to the Office of Policy and Management: state agencies’ Environmental Classification Documents should include a requirement for an agency, in cases like this where the state was fiscally or contractually bound to the actions of a private enterprise, to consider foreseeable impacts. Chair Wagner asked that staff respond with this information to those who brought the complaint to the Counsel. VanCor asked if there was nothing the DEP could have done in this case, as there had when trees were removed near other airports. Wagener responded that, in the case he was familiar with, wetlands regulations were applicable, but the Plainville site was uplands and unregulated.

Tylerville Contamination and Related Issues (Agenda Item 5a) – Chair Wagner introduced Lori Mathieu, Public Health Services Manager in the Drinking Water Section of the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH). Ms. Mathieu had been invited to speak about the problem of pollution of ground water in Haddam with toxic chemicals, and to discuss general administrative and policy concerns in addressing this problem statewide. Ms Mathieu was accompanied by other DPH employees including Eric McPhee, Sharee Rusnak and Pat Bisacky. She distributed a summary of her presentation and showed maps with the locations of public water supplies in the Haddam area. She explained the differences among transient, non transient and non-community wells and how they are regulated by DPH. Mathieu said that the DPH is reluctant to approve wells in areas that are known to have a high risk for contamination and works with applicants to assure, as much as possible, that unpolluted locations are chosen or treatment systems are installed where needed. According to the Attorney General, she said, state law does not allow for an outright ban on wells in suspect areas without clear evidence of contamination on site. In the Haddam case the best solution may be connection to an existing public water supply from Chester through the Connecticut Water Company. She said the town is exploring this option. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) provides 20-year 2% loans for this purpose. The priorities for this funding are set by the DPH and there are $140 million in requests for $20 million in funds, so only 4 or 5 projects will be approved. In response to questions from Hall, she explained that anticipated future demand is taken into consideration in the planning for these projects and that the infrastructure reverts to the water company at the end of its depreciated life.

Chair Wagner expressed concern over the current situation in which wells were still being allowed in areas of possible contamination. Mathieu said that she would like to see a more proactive approach to preventing unsuspecting property owners from sinking wells into contaminated aquifers. This might require a collaborative effort between the DPH and the DEP. She said that under existing law the DEP is the lead agency to identify contamination and request provision of potable water. She said the DPH now has a group that is studying the issue of source protection for drinking water resources. Chair Wagner asked about specific properties in Haddam that are newly opened and providing water to the public as part of their business activity. Mathieu said that these businesses agreed to the installation of filter systems as a condition of operation. There was considerable discussion of what the DPH could and could not do when reviewing applications for wells in contaminated areas.

VanCor and Chair Wagner remained concerned that a contamination problem so serious could be ignored for so long leaving residents with lowered property values and possible health risks. Mathieu said that the under CGS 22a-471 the DEP is the lead agency in this regard and is charged with the responsibility of identifying properties and issuing orders for potable water. She said that the DPH would like to be more proactive but that studies to identify sources of contamination are a DEP responsibility. Mathieu said that the provision of a clean water source for the town and the pursuit of any polluters for abatement and possible damages can be done simultaneously.

She said there are numerous such problems in the state. An effective solution will require that sites be prioritized and tackled in an orderly manner. She would like to work cooperatively with other agencies towards this goal. She added that Thad King, Director of the Chatham Health District, has helped advance Haddam towards the goal of potable water. Wagener asked if a town votes down borrowing money to provide public water can the DPH require it? Mathieu said “no”.

Mathieu responded to a question from Lisa Wadge in the audience. Wadge said that commercial wells should be monitored and the results made public but that some commercial establishments are not required to sample or report their well data. Mathieu noted that the Public Health Code goes back 30 years and that protections for public water supplies could be strengthened to accommodate today’s circumstances. She pointed out that the DPH is considering ways that groundwater sources could be protected from toxics. Hall asked if there was clear evidence of toxic contamination could a well be denied and Mathieu said it could.

Wadge suggested that there is a need for improved communication with the public and for more citizen input. She asked that her organization, the Citizens for Clean Groundwater (CCG), be kept informed of tests. Mathieu asked Sharee of the DPH to describe the public outreach that had occurred in Haddam via a public forum.

Wadge said the Botelle residence had had a breakthrough of contaminants at their second filter. She said she can’t imagine a stronger case for priority attention than Tylerville. However, the recent Phase I study that had been funded by the DEP was a year overdue, and in its review of prior data it missed some studies. She said the consultants even proposed drilling test wells where wells had already been sunk, and called into question potential sources that had already been ruled out in earlier studies. The CCG had provided this information to the DEP in its comments on the Phase I draft, but there were no changes made.

Robert Bell, Assistant Director of the DEP’s bureau of Remediation spoke from the audience. He said the Phase I study only sets the foundation for Phases II and III which will define the extent of the contamination plumes there. He said it has no effect on the provision of water by the DPH to residences with known contamination. He said that the geology of the area may prevent a full cleanup and that potable water from an outside source may be the only solution for those residents. Mathieu added that provision of a safe source is not contingent on the completion of the Phase I study.

Wagener asked if a record of an applicant’s noncompliance with requirements of another state agency could be taken into consideration in the issuance of a permit by DPH. Mathieu said that DPH staff would consult with DEP staff to understand relevant facts. Hall asked if tests done by private parties can be adequate evidence of pollution. Mathieu answered “yes, if properly vetted”. Mathieu said that in July the DPH will be receiving public comments on proposed new regulations to protect public drinking water sources that will include testing for toxics at “transient non-community” wells serving 25 or more persons in contaminated areas. She passed out a chart showing what is currently required for each of the three categories of wells (community, non-transient non-community, transient non-community).

CCG had provided the Council with a DVD of a news broadcast from 2001 that discussed the problem of toxic contamination in Tylerville, and asked that it be shown. In it, a representative of the DEP said that the DEP intended to identify the responsible parties and make them responsible for the costs of drinking water and pollution abatement. After the showing, a member of the audience asked which agency was charged with the responsibility to identify these contaminated areas. Wagener said that there are maps of contaminated locations at the DEP but these have not been coordinated with public water supply sources. Mathieu said that such a matching is a good idea. She thanked the Council for the invitation and the opportunity to present what the DPH is doing to reduce public risk from this threat. Chair Wagner thanked Mathieu and the other DPH staff for taking the time to attend and answer the Council’s questions.

Water Diversions on University of Connecticut’s Storrs Campus – Wagener referred to the materials that had been emailed in advance of the meeting. Quentin Kessel, Chair of the Mansfield Conservation Commission, distributed a map that showed two areas of the UConn campus in the Willimantic River watershed where stormwater was proposed to be diverted to the Fenton River watershed. While the larger, more northerly diversion now seemed unlikely, Mr. Kessel said, the other one had already been implemented. He said that he finally had persuaded all parties that the water was being diverted to a watercourse, and that that watercourse flowed to Roberts Brook which was a tributary to the Fenton River, a drinking water source for the Willimantic Water Company. He said that the diverted water includes runoff from impervious surfaces, which is likely to be degraded. While the watershed of the diverted water is smaller than the threshold that would trigger a requirement for a diversion permit, he said that diversions into a drinking water supply watershed require a permit from the Department of Public Health (DPH), which was not obtained. He referred to a letter from the University which said that the DPH was unable to permit such a diversion retroactively. Members asked questions about what remedies might be available, and asked staff to report on conclusions at the next meeting.

Others – Wagener referred to the letter that he had received from Alison Hilding of Mansfield and had forwarded to members in advance of the meeting. Ms. Hilding was in the audience, and Chair Wagner asked her to summarize the complaint. Ms. Hilding described a proposal by the University of Connecticut to allocate sewer capacity to an off-campus housing project, and possibly public water service on an emergency basis when the proposed community wells. She had several questions about the oversight of those decisions, including the potential applicability of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act, why the DEP, DPH, USGS nor other agency had been consulted regarding the proposed wells near the old landfill site (known to be a source of contamination, and why there are no water experts on the UConn Water and Wastewater Advisory Committee. She suggested that the 50,000 gallon per day threshold for the diversion permit requirement should be reassessed, and she suggested that students at new off-campus housing would use more water per capita than dorm-dwelling students, which ran counter to the university’s need to conserve water. Chair Wagner thanked Ms. Hilding for her information, and said that the Council will investigate. Ms. Hilding also asked to be referred to the appropriate agency if there are questions that the Council cannot address.

No state agency actions required discussion. Discussion of the Indicator of the Month was postponed. 

Wagner adjourned the meeting at 11:11 AM.