Minutes of the May 25, 2011 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room, 5th Floor, 79 Elm St., Hartford.

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

Chair Wagner convened the meeting at 9:03 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.

Chair Wagner asked if there were revisions to the minutes of the April 20, 2011 special meeting. After discussion, none was made. A motion to approve the minutes was made by Hall and seconded by Brooks. Approved unanimously, with Beach, Sherman and VanCor abstaining because of absence from that meeting.

Executive Director's Report

Wagener updated the Council on developments regarding the budget and implementing language. Brooks added that, at an appearance the previous evening, Commissioner of Environmental Protection Daniel Esty said that some of the Council’s supporters at the Capitol did not want to see the Council put inside the proposed Office of Governmental Accountability (OGA).

Much discussion ensued, with general consensus that independence and staff were still the essential elements of any administrative structure. Lisa Wadge, of the Citizens for Clean Groundwater (CCG) said from the audience that if evidence is needed of the Council’s effectiveness as an independent body, people should look at Tylerville; before the CCG brought its problem to the Council it was having difficulty getting calls returned by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). After the Council became involved Haddam has become a priority of the DEP’s Remediation Division and things started to happen.

Wagener reported that the press coverage of the Annual Report had been more extensive than usual, and that each article covered a different aspect of it.

Review of State Agency Actions

Siting Council consultations – Wagener reported that no comments were recommended for a proposed telecommunications tower in Bloomfield. Comments were recommended for the reopening of a docket in Middletown, which involved an application to raise the height of a tower and add external antennae where the original approval had been for flush-mounted antennae. Members discussed the draft letter that had been sent out prior to the meeting. Beach made a motion to approve the letter as written. It was seconded by VanCor and approved unanimously.

Mattabassett District Water Pollution Control Facility Upgrade – While noting the Council’s preferences for concise environmental impact evaluations, Wagener said that this one omitted required information, particularly the matter of indirect impacts on land use. The draft letter that had been sent to the Council prior to the meeting listed the omissions. Hall moved to send the letter as drafted. This was seconded by Beach and approved unanimously.

Agency Actions Relating to Contamination in Tylerville – Hearn provided a short update with information he had received from the DEP. He said that the DEP had conducted a sampling of wells in May, an attempt to sample 60 wells in a short time span. Results of the tests will be available in mid-June. He reported on the efforts to bring in potable water from an outside source. He said he was told by town officials that there would not be a town vote on the question of whether to bring in a public water source until there is a resolution to the issue of the proposed swap of state lands in Haddam. Presumably, commercial development of the Tylerville parcel could lead to more money for the capital expense of bring in drinking water. DEP personnel had reported that there still are plans for Phase II and Phase III studies of groundwater pollution in Tylerville and that a request for a proposal was in the early stages of preparation. He said that the litigation against the Sibley Company was at the Attorney General’s Office. No court date has been set. Any settlement involving testing would have to be approved by the DEP. 

Lisa Wadge of CCG expressed concerns about the DEP’s slowness in this process, noting that in two years since her organization first appeared before the Council, Tylerville has received a surge of attention but that not a single new test well has been drilled. She cited examples of situations in other parts of the state where polluters of ground water were escaping culpability due to slow administrative processes and to defects in the Transfer Act. Hall asked about the DEP’s capacity to conduct the testing itself, which generated considerable discussion. Ms. Wadge expressed her belief that the DEP had the capability and equipment but that managers were unwilling to have staff perform the work.

Jay Crutcher of North Stamford Concerned Citizens for the Environment briefed the Council on a groundwater pollution problem in North Stamford, noting the many potential pollution sources and difficulties encountered by the residents of the area. Sherman made comparisons to the UConn landfill problems.

The Council discussed how best to address the state’s slow rate of progress in solving these types of problems. Staff was directed to draft an informational letter for the new administration about these problems, perhaps attaching the letter sent to Governor Rell in July of 2010.

Citizen Complaints

a) Ponde Place and other water supply issues in Mansfield Wagener said the Council had received a complaint about the water supply approval process for the proposed Ponde Place Development. The complaint described how the applicant did not obtain permits for new wells but instead drilled new “monitoring” wells that did not require permits, and then filed applications for permits for those same wells. He said that DPH and DEP staff had assured Hearn, who investigated, that the drill-first approach would have no effect on the permit process and that the wells will have to go through the complete approval process if the developer wished to utilize them as a water source. A determination on the adequacy of the applications is due in June.

Wagener said he had been approached by residents of Mansfield who are concerned about water supply shortages there and the number of proposed water-consuming developments. They suggested that the Council hold a public forum in Mansfield. The Council determined that July is the earliest date on which it could be arranged, and directed staff to explore having a forum there in July.

b) Kleen Energy Plant, Middletown – Wagener reported that the Council had received several complaints about the odor and noises coming from the Kleen Energy Plant. He said the DEP was contacted and they have inspected the facility. Staff will continue to monitor.

c) Outdoor wood burning furnace in Cornwall – Staff followed up on this complaint of a furnace installed too close to the property line, which had been brought to the Council in April. The owner had responded on May 19 to the DEP’s Notice of Violation by stating, after an extension, that the furnace would be shut down.

d) Others

UConn Law School illegal dumping and related matters - Wagener said that staff had been in contact with the DEP and with the person who initially complained about the condition there, which had been discussed at the Council’s January 26, 2011 meeting. In response to the Council’s follow-up, the citizen submitted new photographs of potential problems. The DEP will be re-inspecting. Staff will report future developments.

Haddam land swap - Wagener said that he had forwarded information to the members at citizens’ requests. He also reported that the Connecticut River Gateway Commission stated on its website that it is reconsidering donating a 37-acre parcel to the state because of uncertainty created by the conveyance controversy.

There being no further business Chair Wagner declared the meeting adjourned at 11:59 AM.