Minutes of the August 28, 2019 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Holcombe Room on the fifth floor of 79 Elm Street in Hartford.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Susan Merrow (Chair), Keith Ainsworth, David Kalafa, Lee Dunbar, Alison Hilding, Kip Kolesinskas, Charles Vidich, Alicea Charamut, and Matthew Reiser

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director), Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst), and Matthew Pafford (OPM).

At 9:35 AM, Chair Merrow convened the meeting and noted that there was a quorum of Council members present.

2. Approval of Agenda

Chair Merrow began the meeting by asking if there are any additions or modifications to the agenda. Vidich made a motion to approve the agenda as written; seconded by Dunbar. The motion was approved unanimously.

3. Approval of Minutes of July 24, 2019

Vidich suggested changing “EIEs completed in the distant” to “EIEs completed in the past”. There were a few other minor editorial changes. Dunbar made a motion to approve the corrected draft meeting minutes of July 24, 2019; seconded by Vidich. The motion was approved, with abstention by Charamut who was not present at that meeting.

4. Chair’s Report

Chair Merrow noted the enhanced security protocols in the building and was pleased that Council members were able to get to the meeting rooms without unnecessary delay. Chair Merrow commented on the draft report to the Governor and indicated that she was pleased with the significant amount of work that was completed in FY 2018-2019 with reduced staff resources.

5. Citizen Comment Period

Chair Merrow noted that there were no members of the public in attendance to speak with the Council.

6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received

a. Department of Transportation (DOT) Links in Environmental Monitor Archives

Hearn mentioned that documents linked to in the DOT’s Scoping Notices and Post Scoping Notices within the Environmental Monitor Archive files are not currently working. Hearn indicated that the broken links appear to be associated with the DOT’s migration to the new website format and that a solution is being worked on. He assured Council members that links in the recent Environmental Monitor do work and that newly archived documents, going forward, are expected to work also.

b. Updates: PFAS – Hearn stated that Governor Lamont has established a Task Force to develop an Action Plan to address concerns about PFAS contamination in the State. Hearn indicated that some residents of the Town of Windsor were very concerned about public notification of the PFAS release from an airplane hangar that went through storm drains to a sewage treatment plant and then into the Farmington River. Hearn developed a matrix identifying the timeline for public notification of the PFAS release in Windsor, including identification of the parties responsible for notification and the corresponding regulation or statute that required the notice. Vidich questioned whether PFAS chemicals were on the EPA’s “Consolidated List of Lists under EPCRA/CERCLA/CAA” that would require notification to federal agencies. Ainsworth said they were not. Charamut questioned if the PFAS Task Force will formalize a spill notification protocol to address the concerns of residents. Hearn noted that though there is a recommended maximum allowable limit for PFAS chemicals in drinking water, there is no exposure limit for PFAS chemicals in the soil or surface waters. Hearn indicated that the PFAS Task Force is expected to have the final report to the Governor by October 1, and that staff will continue to monitor the activities of the Task Force subcommittees.

c. Harbor Point in Stamford - Hearn said that Council staff continues to monitor the exchange of information between concerned residents in the Harbor Point area of Stamford and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) regarding fugitive dust, odors, and other environmental issues at Harbor Point, a brownfield redevelopment site in Stamford. Hearn indicated that DEEP has provided files and/or access to public records for the residents who have asked. He noted that the DEEP staff person assigned to the issue has been very helpful in providing information and addressing residents’ concerns. Hearn also noted that DEEP has issued two Notice of Violations (NOV) to the contractor on the site(s) regarding odors and fugitive dust. Hearn indicated that the General Permit for the handling of contaminated soil has expired. He said that Council staff is tracking the response to the NOVs to assess if the issues identified by the citizens are being addressed at the site.

Hearn said that he had received an inquiry about gravel mining operations in Thompson. Hearn provided information to the concerned citizen regarding the development of Watershed Management Plans and contact information for the appropriate analyst at DEEP to address groundwater protection. Hearn indicated that regulating gravel mining operations was included in the Council’s comments to the DEEP Commissioner regarding the 20BY20 initiative.

d. Fairfield Tree Trimming - Hearn noted that the Council submitted written comments regarding the vegetative management (VM) practices of United Illuminating (UI) to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). The comments sought clarification on whether a utility may reduce routine maintenance, substitute “Targeted Risk Management” (TRM), and be in compliance with its responsibilities under C.G.S. 16-234(c). PURA indicated that it will initiate a maintenance docket to address the concerns of residents, tree wardens, and others and will issue a request for written comments in that docket, which will be followed by a hearing.

7. Report on Staff Activities

Hearn indicated that the e-Alert and press release of late July regarding the impact of climate change on certain bird and fish species resulted in press coverage from at least three different media outlets, including a radio interview on WPLR. Hearn said that the focus of the press coverage was not only on the impacts of climate change, but on the 2018 Annual Report as well.

8. State Agency Actions

a. Consideration of Comments for Connecticut Siting Council:

Hearn said that the Council was requested by the Connecticut Siting Council to comment on a proposed telecommunications tower in the Town of Hamden and a proposed solar electric generating facility in the Town of Stonington.

Docket #486 The draft comments for the proposed tower in Hamden, which had been sent to the members for review prior to the meeting, noted that the applicant had not included a photo-simulation of the view of the proposed tower from Lake Wintergreen, as required in the Siting Council’s Applications Guidelines. Additionally, a photo-simulation from the recreational trail in West Rock Ridge State Park, adjacent to Lake Wintergreen, would be appropriate since the Lake itself is predicted to have year-round visibility of the proposed tower. 

In addition, the Council requested that the Siting Council consider the inland wetland setback requirements of the Town of Hamden’s Inland Wetlands Regulations since the proposed project would be well within 100 feet of the identified wetlands on the proposed site. It was the consensus of the Council members that the comments regarding the Docket were appropriate and should be sent to the Siting Council.

Petition #1378 - Aresta referenced the draft comments for this project that were sent to the members prior to the meeting. The proposed project is a five megawatt solar electric generating facility in the Town of Stonington. It included conditions, requested by the Department of Agriculture (DOA), that would preserve topsoil, and maintain vegetation and habitat for grazing livestock. Kolesinskas expressed support of the conditions that should minimize the facility’s impact on agricultural practices and prime farmland soils. Vidich suggested that the Council monitor the proposed project, if approved, to determine if the conditions outlined by the DOA are included in the Siting Council’s approval. He said it could serve as a model for other renewable energy projects.

The proposed comments regarding Petition 1378 included a request that the Siting Council consider a standardized model for calculation of carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction benefits in renewable energy proposals. Dunbar noted the value of standardization and said the model selected should not put Connecticut renewable energy projects in a disadvantageous position compared to other states. It was the consensus of the Council members that the comments regarding the Petition were appropriate and should be sent to the Siting Council.

b. EIE for Coventry Sewer

Hearn reviewed the proposed, privately funded, sewer extension project in the Town of Coventry. He said that the proposed project would involve the extension of an existing sewer line from the Bolton town line easterly along Route 44 for a distance of approximately 2,000 feet, primarily for economic development purposes. The Bolton sewer had been ordered by DEEP to address public health and environmental concerns associated with development around Bolton Lake. In the Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) for the Bolton sewer, DEEP indicated that the sewer line would not extend into Coventry. Dunbar questioned if permits associated with the increased discharge of wastewater and construction within a state right-of-way would be required for the proposed project. Chair Merrow noted the expense associated with low-pressure sewer systems, like the one proposed. Kalafa was concerned that the financial resources to properly maintain the proposed sewer line might not be available if the anticipated economic development within the Town of Coventry does not occur. Kalafa was also concerned that the proposed project exemplifies an incremental expansion of sewers. He said the economic development associated with sewer expansion may alter the agricultural character of the Town. Kolesinskas pointed out that only a short distance from the end of the proposed sewer line is much farmland that could be exposed to similar development pressure. Dunbar and Charamut expressed concerns that the proposed increase in the discharge of wastewater into the Hockanum River, which is effluent dominant, would adversely affect water quality. It was the consensus of the Council to submit comments and questions to DEEP regarding the proposed project.

9. Special Act 19-4

Hearn indicated that he received an inquiry from a concerned citizen about the proposed transfer of DOT land to the Town of Cheshire for economic development. The proposed land transfer would involve three parcels that are located on the east side of Route 10 north of Interstate 691. Hearn noted that the land transfer was authorized by the Connecticut Legislature, consistent with the provisions of the recently adopted Constitutional Amendment. Additionally, the proposed land transfer is not subject to the law that requires the transfer of State lands be posted in the Environmental Monitor for review and comment. Kalafa indicated that the proposed land transfer would be reviewed but the State Properties Review Board to confirm that the land was “sold” for fair market value. Charamut noted that the properties are located in an Aquifer Protection Area for two water supply wells.

10. Other Business

Vidich suggested that some local communities and some regional planning agencies may not have the resources to fully examine the potential environmental impacts associated with a variety of development activities.

Having no further business, Chair Merrow asked for a motion to adjourn. Dunbar made a motion to adjourn; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 11:39 A.M.