SOUTHINGTON - An environmental firm hired by the Southington Water Department has determined that Tilcon’s existing mining operation is already impacting the town’s water supply, according to local officials.
Now the town’s Board of Water Commissioners and head of the Water Department are asking state officials to deny Tilcon’s proposal to expand the quarry into protected watershed land near Crescent Lake to prevent further impacts.
“We don’t plan to give up on this,” said William Casarella, superintendent of the Southington Water Department. “It’s critical to the town of Southington.”
Woodard and Curran, the firm hired by Southington, contends that Tilcon’s existing mining operation has changed the topography of the land, causing water to run toward the quarry rather than Crescent Lake. Under an agreement with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Southington water officials must help replenish the Quinnipiac River when water levels are low. The town uses water from Crescent Lake for the replenishment, Casarella said, but the lake is taking longer to refill because the watershed is now running toward the quarry.
“The change in contours due to the quarry operation has redirected groundwater flows more toward the east and away from the Quinnipiac River and Crescent Lake,” Caseralla said in a letter drafted with the input from Woodard and Curran that was sent to the state Water Planning Council Aug. 6.
Tilcon’s proposal to expand would put the quarry within a half-mile of Crescent Lake, Casarella said. Another issue is that the quarry expansion would also come within 1.5 miles of Southington’s Well No. 9, which produces about 44 percent of the drinkable water in town. The quarrying has impacted the watershed of the well, too, the environmental firm concluded.
“No further expansion that reduces inflow to the Quinnipiac River Basin should be allowed and certainly no project should be permitted or approved that will have further irreversible consequences on the Southington Water Department’s water supply, the flows in the Quinnipiac River and the watershed,” the letter said.
New Britain officials Thursday declined to comment directly on the Southington Water Commission letter, saying, “the scope of the study (done by Lenard), as outlined in state law and agreed upon by two state agencies, was very specific and focused on New Britain watershed property. Any questions related to quarrying operations should be directed to Tilcon.”
Tilcon’s plan to extend the quarry into protected watershed land owned by the New Britain Water Department has drawn fire from residents, environmental advocates and state officials over the past several months.
The company is seeking to quarry the watershed that acts as a tributary to Shuttle Meadow Reservoir for 40 years and then turn the property back to New Britain as a “storage reservoir.” Tilcon would pay the city of New Britain for the mining rights to the land and give New Britain, Southington and Plainville open space land surrounding the quarry.
The WPC and state Council on Environmental Quality determined after examining an environmental study on the proposal done by the Glastonbury-based Lenard Engineering that the plan would likely pollute Shuttle Meadow Reservoir and kill all animal, plant and bird life in the area.
The WPC and CEQ are required to put together a package of information on the proposal including their recommendations and a summary of public comment on the project. The agencies will turn the information over to the state legislature in the coming weeks.
In order for Tilcon to proceed with the expansion, the project would need the approval of the state Department of Health and the legislature, which would have to pass a law to change the use of the New Britain watershed. Opponents, including Casarella, fear that a change in use for the New Britain watershed would imperil protected watersheds throughout the state.
Southington water officials learned about six weeks ago that the WPC and CEQ were about to turn over their findings and hired Woodard and Curran to examine what the town has already suspected, Casarella said.
“It’s taking a year for Crescent Lake to refill now,” he said. “There could be a point when that watershed won’t be replenished.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.