Minutes of the, September 21, 2016 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room on the fifth floor of 79 Elm Street in Hartford.

PRESENT: Susan Merrow (Chair), Alicea Charamut, Lee Dunbar, Karyl Lee Hall, Alison Hilding, Kip Kolesinskas, Matt Reiser, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).

At 9:32 AM, Chair Merrow convened the meeting, noting a quorum.

Chair Merrow asked for approval of the agenda. Charamut made a motion to approve that was seconded by Reiser and approved unanimously.

Chair Merrow asked if there were any revisions to the minutes of August 24, 2016. Reiser said the use of the word “common” in the minutes did not reflect accurately his comments about the frequency with which the scope of work in consulting contracts is changed, and suggested that the phrase “not uncommon” was closer to what he said. Chair Merrow asked for a motion to approve the minutes with that modification. Reiser made a motion to approve the minutes with the change. It was seconded by Dunbar and approved by all present. Hall was just arriving and did not vote. Hilding had not arrived, but subsequently asked that the minutes reflect that she had read the August minutes and approved of them.

Citizen Comment Period

Mr. Ed Young, of Newington, said he had appeared before the Council a year ago to alert the Council to a potential violation of the conditions under which Newington had acquired the Young farm pursuant to a grant from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). He said he came to speak about his concern that, after the use of the property for construction staging was terminated, the topsoil was not returned to the site, and of his concern that contaminated soil might have been disposed of there. He passed out photographs to document his contention. He said the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) paid the same contractor who Newington permitted to remove the farm topsoil to dispose of contaminated soil. He said he has asked the MDC for documentation of where the contaminated soil ended up. He said the MDC has not produced the documents requested. He asked the Council for assistance in this matter.

Wagener recounted the history of the Council’s involvement in the question of whether the conditions of the grant had been violated and of DEEP’s actions to date to inform the town that even a temporary change of use to accommodate construction should not have occurred absent permission of DEEP. He said that DEEP and the town are working to get the conservation restriction on the property recorded in the town land records, since it never was. Wagener said that there should be a record of any hazardous materials transported and where they went, and that he thought it would be accessible to the public. He said the Council might be able to help to obtain those records. Chair Merrow thanked Mr. Young for providing this information to the Council and Mr. Young thanked the Council for hearing his concerns.

Mr. Charles Vidich, of Ashford spoke next. He said he came to offer his recommendations regarding the revised scope of work that had been provided to the Council by Lenard Engineering Inc. (LEI). He said the term “flood-skimming” needs to be defined and described. It should assess whether this location is the only location for a quarry and if not why it is the best. There should be a listing of what permits will be required. There should also be a literature search that would describe the best practices for quarry operations in proximity to reservoirs. The water sampling parameters also must be based on what a literature review shows as best practice. He said he would like to see the Council be included in discussions by New Britain’s Water Commission and Water Department about the project. He said the public would benefit from more than one public hearing. He said the noise, traffic and air quality analyses should be included in the study and not postponed.

Chair Merrow thanked him for his thoughts and said the matter will be the topic of more discussion later in the agenda and invited him to participate further at that time.

Margaret Miner spoke next to discuss her concern that a complaint she received about a quarry operation along the Moosup River is not receiving the attention deserved due to insufficient staffing in DEEP’s enforcement and wetlands sections. Wagener said the complaint in question had been brought to the Council’s attention and the complainant had been invited to appear at the Council, but had been unable to appear. Kolesinskas said that if it is on the river the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might have some jurisdiction. Dunbar said it might be possible to ask DEEP to treat this complaint as a priority for a site visit. Chair Merrow thanked Ms. Miner and said the Council would look further into the issue and would contact DEEP again about the project’s priority status.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener said the Council has brought on two student interns for the semester, Kyle Hall from the University of Connecticut and Cassandra Cronin of Trinity College.

He said that the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) has required all state agencies to submit budget options for the next fiscal year that show a 10% reduction from this year. He said the only way this reduction could be achieved would be by reducing his hours even beyond the reductions of the current year, and that such a reduction would be included in his submission to OPM, if the Council agreed; the Council agreed.

Following up on comments received by Susan Masino at the August meeting regarding invasive Phragmites (Common Reed), Wagener said that he had learned that staff reductions at DEEP is leading to a reduction in marsh-restoration projects that reduce Phragmites. In the future, Phragmites management will occur only when part of a larger project that will, most probably, be funded by grants for which other objectives must also be accomplished.

Chair Merrow noted that the Council has heard of a number of cutbacks at DEEP with adverse environmental consequences. She asked if keeping tally of these impacts would be an appropriate response. Hall said these impacts are major and the public needs to be made aware. All agreed. Wagener said that he will begin a list.

Citizen Complaints

a. Review and Protection of Cultural Resources on State Lands

Mr. Doug Schwartz, Vice President of the New England Antiquities Research Association, said that since his last appearance before the Council in June, he had conducted a field session with the Connecticut Chapter of the American Foresters Association. He said the foresters were very receptive to learning how to identify the presence of Native American stone structures. They wanted to know how to report sites they might encounter. He said that it is important that DEEP develop a policy for protection of these sites. DEEP controls six percent of the state’s land and therefore controls the largest percentage of such sites in the state. He said that in addition to the letter that had been drafted by the Council to the DEEP commissioner, a letter should be sent to the Connecticut National Guard, which uses a forested area that is a known site for these structures.

Doug Harris, Assistant Director of the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office, spoke about the need to protect sites. He works with the three other federally-recognized tribes in southern New England. He said that the tribal nations have dropped sovereignty from consideration of these sites, coming to a consensus that ancestral sites are important to all. He discussed the ceremonial landscape. Saying that such sites span the continent and can be thought of as “prayers in stone” or “memory piles” associated with mourning rituals. He said there are references to them in colonial history. Some have celestial alignment. He described the collaboration that has occurred among tribes and mentioned the protections afforded sites under federal regulations. He provided contact information for the historic preservation official in the Mohegan tribe. He thanked the Council for the opportunity to speak about the importance of these locations. Chair Merrow thanked both Mr. Harris and Mr. Schwartz for their appearance.

Discussion turned to the draft letter to DEEP regarding the statutory requirement that all agencies prepare a document to identify programs and projects that could impact archaeological and sacred sites. In response to a question from Hall on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) procedures, Wagener said that many DOT projects are federally funded and there is a federal mandate for an archaeological review; he was uncertain if the DOT had a document to govern programs and projects that are completely state-funded. Mr. Schwartz said the DOT has been very good to work with. Hilding suggested a number of additional venues for educating the public including: in the training for certification of foresters, in DEEP brochures for private forest owners, in academic courses on forestry at universities. Discussion followed on the wording of the letter. Hall asked if there are prototypes or templates for identification and protection available from other sources that DEEP might be able to use. Mr. Schwartz said that there are tribal resolutions that might have useful language. He added that an effective protection tool is requiring performance bonds with pre- and post-project inspections. Hilding offered a motion to send the letter, which Hall seconded. Chair Merrow asked Wagener to summarize the consensus thus far. He said the motion would be to send the original draft wording to the DEEP commissioner with a copy to the Connecticut National Guard with an explanation as to why it was being sent the letter. In addition, a section would be added that information for private landowners should be part of DEEP’s plan to preserve the sites. The motion was adopted unanimously.

b. Contamination in Tylerville

Hearn said that the owner of the Sibley site, which had been the source of concern by the Council for many years, had been told by DEEP that it would no longer be a “LEP-lead” site. DEEP made the determination that the site analysis and the remediation plan, submitted by the consultant, were inadequate, and that DEEP was requiring the Commissioner’s review and approval of the investigation and remediation at the site. In response to a question by Hall, he said that they have 60 days to develop an investigation and remediation plan acceptable to DEEP. Chair Merrow observed that this is a contamination problem that has existed for 40 years; Wagener added that another year is now in the books.

c. Pollinators and mowing on public lands

Wagener explained that this issue, which had been discussed in August, was back on the agenda at the request of the citizen who made the original complaint. The citizen had asked if the Council could issue a news release to encourage landowners to postpone mowing until after the first frost. Dunbar and Kolesinskas said that timing of cutting depends on what the property is managed for. Invasive-species reduction could require early cutting, for example. Wagener said that it is expected that the Connecticut Agriculture Management Station will have guidelines and materials for the next growing season. The Council’s consensus was that any Council recommendations before then would be premature.

d. Recreational burning on summertime bad-air days

Wagener said that he had been requested by Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI) to ask the Council if it would be interested in a presentation on the air quality impacts of recreational burning of wood during bad-air days in summer. Discussion followed. Kolesinskas said that a neighbor’s smoke-emitting mower could be worse than a fire made properly with seasoned wood. Kolesinskas also suggested that refraining from such burning could be added to the behaviors that are discouraged during air-quality alerts and are routinely announced on those days. It was the consensus that any discussion of that topic should be part of a larger discussion of Connecticut’s air pollution problem. The Council asked staff to ask EHHI about data that illustrate or quantify the impacts, rather than schedule a presentation now.

8. Environmental study of change of use of watershed lands in New Britain

Wagener reported that staff met with Jim Ericson, vice president of LEI and Eric Davison, a sub-consultant for LEI. He said there was agreement that the public act calls for complete ecological surveys that will extend the original scope of the study. He said some of the non-ecological impacts have been included among the tasks to be undertaken after the ecological survey has been submitted. He asked the Council if there were additional materials that it wanted when this topic would be on the agenda for discussion at the October 19 meeting.

Hall said the potential air quality impacts should not be postponed to post-completion tasks. She also expressed concern that expansion of the scope of work will leave less money for an adequate and thorough analysis. Reiser said it is best to make the scope of work as comprehensive as possible to achieve a study that is as comprehensive as possible. Mr. Vidich spoke from the audience to agree, and offered other input on the scope; he also said that, regarding qualifications, such documents often include a requirement that the specified key personnel actually perform the study. Dunbar said there has been a presumption that the funding for the study and report is sufficient. The Council, Dunbar said, had been asked to review the consultant’s qualifications, not the scope of work, but that the qualification of the consultant could only be determined fully if one knows what work will be completed, so that linkage is reason for the Council’s review of the scope. Wagener said that he viewed the Council’s input as advisory to the city and consultant, as the Council would be reviewing the final document and it should be useful for them to know what the Council expects to see in the final report.

Hilding said that she did not see among the list of consultants specialists in air pollution. Mr. Ericson spoke from the audience to say LEI will hire whatever expertise is needed to provide a thorough analysis. She added that the Native American ceremonial landscape should be part of the archaeological review. Wagener said that a cultural resource inventory was discussed at the meeting, but that he was not sure that the revised scope reflected that; even a stormwater general permit requires more review, he said.

Chair Merrow, referring to Wagener’s original question, asked the members to get to Wagener by October 1 any requests for additional information they might need to inform their comments at the next Council meeting.

Kolesinskas said he would like to know about the efficiency of the New Britain water supply, including the amount of conservation in place, in order to know if the need is real. He added that the study of ecological impacts needs to include impacts beyond the site to include the site’s role in the larger landscape; he cited migration impacts as an example. Hilding asked for an analysis of the surface water and groundwater trade-off consequent to creating a reservoir. Hall said the study needs to include the data upon which the report’s conclusions are based.

Chair Merrow asked if members of the public wished to speak. Mr. Paul Zagorsky, a resident of New Britain, recounted the history associated with the award of the contract. He expressed concern that there is a presumption in the language of the scope of study that the reservoir will be built. He agreed that the study needs to look at impacts beyond the immediate geography of the site and should include long term impacts and attempt to anticipate the effects of climate change. Other areas of inquiry should be the time it would take the water quality in the new reservoir to stabilize, whether the land will hold water effectively, and the effect of the operation on water supply in the existing Shuttle Meadow Reservoir and other water bodies.

There were questions about the cost of the study. Mr. Ericson said there will be additional costs associated with the expanded study.

Mr. William Ostapchuk spoke next. He said he is a lifelong resident of New Britain. He is concerned about the hydrological analysis, especially with regard to ground water. He cited analytical models that are available that should be referenced. He added that there needs to be consideration of the effect of blasting on residences and of possible impacts on Wassel Reservoir, and on turbidity and dust as well las soil erosion. He gave written comments to the Council.

Mr. Ericson said that he had made notes and would look forward to seeing the Council’s list of concerns about the scope.

Chair Merrow thanked all the commenters and reminded that any additional input on what needs to be included in the scope of work should be to Wagener by October 1.

At this point, Charamut excused herself to tend to a prior commitment.

Review of State Agency Actions

a. State Energy Policies that lead to loss of agricultural land and core forest

Wagener referred to a recently-published research article that concluded that so-called “energy sprawl” is the biggest driver of land-use change in the country. However, he noted, the largest factor by far is the biomass industry, followed by fossil fuels. The article also looked at land-use change caused by renewable energy as well. Wagener said that staff is investigating several questions, including the potential for renewable energy generation on state land (other than conservation lands), brownfields, industrial lands and landfills. He noted that the USEPA has a website dedicated to encourage the development of renewable energy on such properties, and includes the generation potential within each state. Unfortunately, he said, the estimated total of 2000 megawatts for Connecticut is wildly overstated; nonetheless, there are some good data to be found there. He said that he has scheduled a meeting with officials at the Department of Economic and Community Development to discuss possible incentives for siting solar facilities on appropriate sites. Staff also is investigating what incentives other states are working on.

c. Comprehensive Open Space Acquisition Strategy (Green Plan)

Wagener referred to the revised draft plan that had been distributed prior to the meeting along with related documents, including a memo from DEEP to the Council. He said that DEEP staff would be attending the October 19 meeting to discuss the revisions. Prior to the October meeting, Wagener said, he would distribute a list of the Council’s recommendations and the resultant revisions to the plan, mentioning a few recommendations that had been adopted by DEEP.

d. Four Corners (Mansfield) Sanitary Sewer Extension, DEEP, Record of Decision

Wagener explained that documents at the Record-of-Decision stage rarely appear on the Council’s agenda; at this stage, the sponsoring agency has made its decision and responded to all agency and public comments. Before determining the adequacy of the final document, the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) consults the Council. Normally, Wagener said, this is a routine function, but he had identified some potential deficiencies in this document, which he had put in a draft letter that was distributed in advance of the meeting. Among his biggest concerns were the lack of attention to indirect impacts and the explanation for including wetlands in the sewer service area. The Council also discussed its prior recommendation for limiting impervious surfaces to 12 percent of a watershed. Reiser noted that the new stormwater general permit for municipalities includes provisions related to this threshold; members agreed to add an appropriate sentence to the letter. With that and other minor clarifications, Dunbar made a motion to approve the letter, which was seconded by Reiser and approved unanimously.

There being no other business, Dunbar made a motion to adjourn, which was seconded by Reiser and approved unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 12:35 PM.