Rivers Alliance finds the study inadequate and flawed relative to the requirements of PA 16-61.
We have submitted comments and testimony in the past (including comments on the 2008 version of this project), which I will not repeat at length here. I also accept and refer you to the expert comments and testimony of Paul Zagorsky, Esq., Dr. Richard Judd, and others in New Britain’s Protect Our Watersheds group. I have been able to verify their statements in all of the many instances in which I checked for validity.
The Lenard report was supposed to be an independent study but the longstanding financial relationships between and among the consultant, Lenard, the Tilcon company, and the City of New Britain belie any claim to independence. In 2008, the legislature designated DPH to do a similar, independent study. (DPH declined for reason of inadequate resources.) No one at that time thought that New Britain could use its own engineering consultant to do an independent. Yet throughout this report, Lenard is the source of the information, often recycled information from the past.
We are supposed to have been given field notes and similar primary data, but it has not been forthcoming. Such information should be made publicly available with the study.
The environmental study of the site does not cover all seasons in adequate detail. It skimps on the much needed inventory of wildlife (animals and plants) on site. Considering that all species on site will be destroyed, a full inventory is necessary to evaluate the extent of the environmental loss.
In the summary of environmental impacts, there is no mention that the already stressed Coppermine Brook will be further impaired by a skimming protocol that will almost continually divert water. Lenard claims that that the brook will meet pending minimum flow standards. But New Britain and/or Bristol pump water out of the stream via adjacent wells. The recent results have included period of little flow and no flow at all. Zero flow doesn’t meet any standard. A separate analysis is needed to assess the extent of harm to the brook when it is subject to both skimming and pumping.
The study glosses over the impacts to both supply and the environment during the 40 to 50 years that the watershed is being stripped of all life, soil, and valuable rock. It gives a misleading calculation of the quantity of available clean water that will be lost. It values only the runoff, or discharge, from the headwaters (wetlands) of two streams, which it estimates to be 70,000 gpd. But that is a small fraction of the quantity of water stored in 70 plus acres of watershed. This is clean, high-quality water. Even if one’s only concern is supply, this water in the ground (probably in the millions of gallons) is there, is secure (unless this project goes forward), and is available for use in an emergency. Nature’s water storage is a gift to the residents of New Britain. The report should quantify the amount of water now in storage.
The report basically acknowledges that there is no evidence that demand will increase significantly. So it relies on assertions that demand might increase because we live in an uncertain world.
To sum up. The study is not independent. It is incomplete. And its conclusions are not always supported by the evidence it offers.
Margaret Miner, Executive Director
Questions Regarding Chapter 4 and So-Called Flood Skimming
This report states that the new reservoir can be maintained at safe levels to meet supply demand by various diversions, including significantly by flood skimming of Coppermine Brook. Lots of numbers are presented in Chapter 4 – Updated Surface Water Safe Yield Study with New Storage Reservoir (pdf file page 53 of 457) pages with printed prefixes of "4-", where page numbers are actually printed. For references, click here for a faster loading version of Chapter 4 that is searchable.
Their discussion reveals that what they call “flood skimming” is taking all the water above the required minimum flow rate set in the streamflow regulations for Class 3. Their term is very misleading because it implies taking a little off the top when there are high flows, but this not what is described or used in their calculations. They should call it “Diversion Maximization” According to their plan, the stream will never flow higher than the minimum rate.
Here follow questions raised by their analysis.
All the safe yield calculations in this section are based on flows in the drought of the 1960s. For Coppermine Brook, the stream gage in Burlington is the reference. and 1965 is identified as the year having the lowest monthly mean flow for that gage. They identified 2016 as the second lowest.
The climate in the 1960s was far different than now however. In the 1960s the monthly average flow they cite was based on precipitation that was low throughout the year. In recent years precipitation has been near-normal over the winter and early spring but consistently below normal in summer and fall. For example, the September 2016 low flows according to the Burlington gage were much lower than the September flows from the 1960s. September flows are particularly important because flows usually are lowest at that time.
Also, in this report calculations of water availability are based on all water sources that New Britain could use, including MDC's Nepaug Reservoir. New Britain has rarely pumped water from that reservoir for various reasons including cost.
The report emphasizes calculations of how much more water New Britain will have available after the new reservoir is filled in 40 something years. But it is not clear how much water storage capacity would be destroyed in the mining process. The report calculates a loss of only 0.07 MGD (70,000 gpd) as a result of the elimination of storage capacity in the 108 acres of watershed lands that will be mined. (pdf file page 78 of 457, printed page 4-23). That appears too low.
April 9, 2018
Water Planning Council (WPC), Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ),
Request Comments on New Britain Water Department - Tilcon Report
The City of New Britain has released a study on the controversial plan, which has been promoted for many years, to allow the Tilcon mining company to rock mine in some 100 acres of protected reservoir lands (Class I and II lands) owned by New Britain and its Water Department. This study was mandated by statute in 2016. It is supposed to address the environmental impacts of total destruction of the reservoir lands
Your comments on the study will be important.
We give here below some examples of comments.
In a recent email, Save Our Water Connecticut summarized well views of the many opponents (including Rivers Alliance) to the City of New Britain’s proposal. Here are their remarks on the precedent this project would set.
The worst outcome: setting a precedent for swapping our key watershed lands for corporate profits or municipal gain. Class I and II watersheds buffer our water from environmental contaminants and filter it for our aquifers. The recent State Water Plan draft lists protection of watershed land as one of its top ten priorities and re-states CT's dedication to preserving the highest quality drinking water in the nation.
If a critical appraisal of New Britain's drinking water needs demonstrates a real need for more water capacity, let's solve it in a less destructive way.
The environmental study recently completed by Lenard Engineering- as a prerequisite to proceeding with Tilcon’s expansion- is also of cause for grave concern.
It appears that multiple vernal pools will be lost or impacted, endangering several amphibian and reptile species; that breeding bird species of “Greatest Conservation Need” will lose critical habitat; that a portion of the Metacomet trail will be destroyed; that significant forested lands will be eliminated; and that inadequacies in the study led to failure to investigate certain wildlife during particularly important periods.
Essentially, the entire habitat will be lost at the new quarry site and degraded along its adjacent limits. Additionally, the billions of gallons of filtered water currently provided by the 131 acres will be lost during the 40 years of strip mining.
Comments on the information in the report itself, rather than on the merits of the proposed project, would be most useful at this stage. Since the report is huge, you may want to focus on the environmental section.
Later in the year, the City of New Britain will hold a public hearing, and there will be additional opportunities to submit written comments at that time.
There will be an opportunity for the public to make brief comments at the CEQ's regular monthly meeting scheduled for Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Because of time limitations, the Council encourages detailed comments to be submitted in writing
March 8, 2018
New Britain Water Dept Releases Tilcon Report
The City of New Britain has released its “Environmental Study Change in Use of New Britain Water Company Land/Proposed Quarry Expansion and Future Water Storage Reservoir.”This study was required by the legislature in 2016 as a precondition to continued efforts by the City New Britain to allow the Tilcon mining company to do total rock excavation in 130 acres of drinking-water reservoir land owned by the city. Approximately 100 acres of this site comprise highly protected Class I and II watershed lands. Because the CT Department of Public Health would not approve the project, the city and Tilcon went to the legislature. The project has been opposed by virtually the entire environmental community of Connecticut and by numerous local and regional residents. See the website for Protect Our Watersheds Connecticut.
Here’s a link to the study itself (which Protect Our Watersheds and Rivers Alliance consider incomplete and misleading).
How to comment about the Environmental Study
On a Change In Use Of New Britain Water Company Land [CT PURA 16-08-43]
You have to register on PURA's website, and comments have to be have to be in a Word or PDF document that you have prepared ahead of time. If you have used their system before, you can skip to step 2. PURA's instructions are here.
Here is a link to the Web Filing main page that describeshow to register with PURA. If you go there, choose the link you will see under "Step 2" to create a new account. You will get an email to complete the registration process.
If the link above (step 3) does not work for you, go to the general docket submission webpage. On that page, you have to fill in the docket number 16-08-43 and make sure the title “ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY ON A CHANGE IN USE OF NEW BRITAIN WATER COMPANY LAND” shows up automatically in the title field. Then choose “Correspondence” from the “Choose Type of Filing” drop-down list. An alert box should pop up that asks “Would you like to create a new Correspondence for Docket 17-06-30?” Click “OK.” If that box does not show up, you may have disable your pop-up blocker for that website, then try again.
Submission Page Instructions: On the submission page, your identification information should be pre-filled in. On this page, be sure to put a brief summary of your comments in the text box labeled “Description” because it may help future searches. At the bottom of the page is an upload button to submit your pre-written MS Word or PDF document.
Did it work? Check the list of documents on the PURA docket website. This list is arranged alphabetically, so your "Correspondence" should be near the beginning of the list. Comments typically show up later in the day they were posted, but if you submitted it late in an afternoon, they may not be able to process it until the next business day.
Need help? Feel free to contact Rivers Alliance: firstname.lastname@example.org, 860-361-9349. PURA, also, has these sources of help:
Is there help available if we have questions or problems with the Web Filing System?
Letter to Editor Re. New Britain Water Department and Tilcon Report
OpEd letter to the New Britain Herald:
To the Editor: Thanks so much for continuing to report in detail on New Britain’s apparent determination to go forward with rock mining in reservoir lands. Tilcon sometimes seems to imply that, after the environmental study required by the legislature is completed, the project will be smooth sailing. Probably not. However, I write to point out the absurdity of needing a study in order to determine the environmental impact of a project that will remove 100 percent of the plants and animals from the target area, along with all the topsoil as well as the most valuable underlying rock. Total destruction of the environment is an adverse impact. No one needs a study to prove that. The study will, however, be useful, if the project goes forward, as an historical record of all the valuable natural resources and wildlife that at one time existed at this site and protected drinking water for the people of New Britain.
Margaret Miner, Exec. Dir.,
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
We commend many of the policies and goals to foster development around existing urban areas and transportation infrastructure, following principles of “smart growth” which are more economical and environmentally sustainable.
We understand some of the reasons that the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), in recent years, has streamlined its PCD, but we join with the American Water Works Association and the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority in expressing concern that much of the detail and clear commitment that characterized former plans has been stripped out. The broad-brush language used, perhaps meant to be flexible, is often nebulous and seems to indicate that existing environmental and health protections are negotiable and should be balanced against development objectives. A number of the broad policy goals appear contradictory or to ignore the benefits and protections for our natural resources.
Too many of the draft PCD’s good recommendations are undermined by weak language and lack of specificity. Every time an action is “encouraged” or “supported” or the like, please specify how and by whom. We support in general the comments from the Weantinoge Land Trust and its request that the PCD incorporate more climate science into planning principles. We support in particular one of its comments calling attention to a vague call for encouragement and suggesting that incentives in support of goals should be described.
One of the primary goals of Rivers Alliance is the protection of natural open space. Open space kept as forest or fields is the best, most economical protector of water quality. State policy has traditionally ranked protection of drinking-water lands as its highest land protection goal; once lost, these lands cannot be recovered. The priority is protection not just of sources used currently as drinking water but of all high-quality waters that can be classified as potentially future drinking-water sources. Protection of source-water land provides many unique services enhancing human and ecological health, in addition to providing reliable water supplies.
Grants for the above programs will be based on the merit of the project and the level of funds available. Funding for these grants is derived from State Bond funds and/or from the Community Investment Act (CIA). DEEP is accepting applications, but awards will not be made until funding becomes available.
The State Office of Policy and Management (OPM) updates the State Conservation and Development Plan once every five years. Each 5-year revision to the State C&D Plan is prepared with consultation from regional councils of governments, municipalities, state agencies, and the public. In summer 2016, OPM began the State C&D Plan revision process for the 2018-2023 State C&D Plan, which must be submitted to the General Assembly by December 31, 2017. Check their web page for information and updates concerning the 2018-2023 State C&D Plan revision. The Public Review & Comment Period ends October 16, 2017
OPM invites all interested persons to express their views on the Draft Plan, either verbally or in writing, at any of the public hearings scheduled across the state. In addition, OPM will accept written comments on the Draft Plan at any time up to the close of business (5:00 PM) on October 16, 2017. Written comments may be emailed, postal mail, or faxed to:
Daniel Morley, Office of Policy and Management
450 Capitol Avenue, MS #54ORG
Hartford, CT 06106-1379
Written comments and proposed edits to the Locational Guide Map may also be submitted using an interactive web-based map editor (soon available), or by way of GIS shapefiles, digital/PDF maps, or printed maps. For example, if a new sewer service area in your municipality is not properly reflected in OPM's PFA boundaries, please submit a map of the new sewer service area boundaries. Specifically, OPM is requesting all municipalities to update the following data layers as appropriate:
Village Priority Funding Areas: request edits to the boundaries of existing VPFAs or the establishment of new VPFAs.
Local Conservation Priorities: areas deemed to be of high conservation priority by the municipality
Protected Lands: update the boundaries of properties that are legally protected from development (water company owned lands, deed restricted lands, etc.)
Local Historic Districts: update the boundaries of Local Historic Districts as applicable
The Green Plan is Connecticut's open-space acquisition plan. It is a report on the state's open space program and policy. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has updated the 2016-2020 Comprehensive Open Space Acquisition Strategy (Green Plan), which guides the state's effort to meet its goal of conserving 21% of Connecticut's land base as open space by year 2023. The Green Plan and information on Connecticut open space is available for viewing and downloading at http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?q=511558. Questions or comments may be directed to Jamie Sydoriak at Jamie.Sydoriak@ct.gov
In their press release DEEP reports: "The plan recommends the acquisition of certain lands for environmental and public recreation conservation centers around four major themes: "Natural Waters and Drinking Water Resources," "Areas Significant to the Coast," "Natural Heritage Resources," and "Natural Resource-based Outdoor Recreation." The Green Plan's statewide open space acquisition priorities were developed in coordination with and support of other key State planning documents related to open space, such as the Climate Change Preparedness Plan, Forestry Action Plan, Wildlife Action Plan, and Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. In addition, a series of meetings and discussions were held with internal and external conservation partners. A draft version of the plan was revised based on a public comment period."
Please write to CT DPH Commissioner Raul Pino if you wish to communicate concern about a plan to convey wastewater from the Woodridge Lake Sewer District to the Torrington wastewater treatment facility in Harwinton. This sewer crosses a section of Class II reservoir land belonging to Torrington Water Company, and extends for a mile along the drinking-water watershed on land not belonging to the water company (and therefore not legally Class II). DEEP believes that the portion of the pipeline that crosses the property of the water company is not “in” Class II land because it will be in the right-of-way for Route 4 (which runs through the property.)
Commissioner Raul Pino, MD, MPH
CT Department of Public Health,
410 Capitol Avenue, Hartford CT 06134
Email is Raul.Pino@ct.gov (mailto:Raul.Pino@ct.gov) cc to Lori.Mathieu@ct.gov (mailto:Lori.Mathieu@ct.gov)
In NW Connecticut, the Torrington Water Company is opposing a proposal by the Woodridge Lake Sewer District (WLSD) and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to run a wastewater pipe through Torrington Water Company Class I/II land to convey sewage from the lake community in Goshen to the City of Torrington's wastewater treatment plant in Harwinton. In Connecticut policy and law, Class I/II lands have the highest priority for protection. They are water company-owned recharge areas for drinking water sources.
Excerpt from Rivers Alliance letter (1/3/17) to Commissioner Pino:
The proposed plan would pipe the wastewater from the Woodridge Lake community across Class I and II land belonging to the Torrington Water Company. As you know, Class I and II lands have the highest priority for protection under Connecticut law. No projects are allowed therein, except certain infrastructure directly related to water supply. The Department of Public Health (DPH) has the chief responsibility for upholding this protection.
Our first worry has to do with the precedent. This is the same worry that led so many groups in 2015-2016 to oppose the proposed Kinder-Morgan Tennessee Gas pipeline under the Class II reservoir recharge lands belonging to the Metropolitan District in West Hartford. That project was eventually abandoned by its proponents.
Second is the risk of direct harm in the field associated with construction, maintenance, and accidents, including pipe flaws and failures. DEEP and others say that the pipe will he engineered with extra safeguards against accidents. All engineered sewer lines are designed to be safe. Nevertheless, accidents happen.
Third, the proposed project will convey thousands of gallons of water daily out of one watershed and into another. As this summer's drought illustrated, basins in the northwest corner can readily run dry. Whenever possible, water should he kept local. Moreover, the waters in the relevant areas are of unusually high quality: almost all are classified as AA, that is, water used for or suitable for drinking. The less disruption of these watersheds, the better.
Finally, there appear to be feasible alternatives for the wastewater problems in the WLSD. There are alternative routes that would avoid Class I and II land. There is also an opportunity for local treatment making use of the 90-acre property now acting as a treatment and leach held. Our research indicates that technology exists that is suitable for wastewater treatment in an area in need of remediation.
We ask that you oppose this project, at least insofar as it would enter the protected recharge land of the Torrington Water Company.