NEW BRITAIN - Opponents are readying for a battle as they prepare to attend a public hearing on Tuesday about the Environmental study on the proposed Tilcon mining expansion.
The hearing is part of the lengthy review process of the project which would allow Tilcon to mine 74 acres of protected watershed for 40 years before returning the quarry back to the city as a “storage reservoir”.
Close to 300 individuals and environmental organizations provided comments to the state Council on Environmental Quality and the state Water Planning Council as they conducted their review of the environmental study. Only a handful of people, including Plainville Town Manager Robert Lee, sent letters expressing support for the plan. The two state agencies concluded the project could damage the city’s water supply, based on information provided in the 500-page study.
Jim Ericson, vice president of Lenard Engineering which conducted the study, will present information during a special meeting of the New Britain Board of Water Commissioners at 6 p.m. The public hearing will then start at 7 p.m. The meeting and the hearing will be held at Gaffney Elementary School at 322 Slater Road.
The city is hosting the presentation prior to the hearing.
“We believe that providing this additional information to the public will be beneficial to ensuring that there is a robust discussion around the proposal,” said David Huck, public affairs specialist for Mayor Erin Stewart. “As has been the case from the outset, the City of New Britain remains committed to a thorough and objective review of all the issues surrounding the potential for a new reservoir project at 0 Biddle Pass in Plainville.”
Hundreds of environmental advocates are expected to attend the hearing. Protect Our Watersheds CT, has been handing out flyers asking area residents to attend the hearing.
The group has ardently tried to educate the public about the watershed and the mining project which would kill wildlife and plant life and destroy some vernal pools, according to the Lenard study. Lenard and acting city water department director Ray Esponda contend that the New Britain Water Department’s treatment facility could handle any contaminants caused by the mining and that water from other city resources could be used to fill the reservoir in addition to runoff.
The ECQ and the WPC largely panned the plan and said that Lenard didn’t demonstrate that the city needs another reservoir and didn’t explore the impact that conservation efforts could have on increasing the city’s water supply. The agencies also said the plan could be “adverse” to the city’s water supply.
As part of the plan, Plainville, Southington and New Britain would receive open space. New Britain would also be paid for the mining rights to the property. New Britain city officials have declined to discuss how much the city would potentially receive in the deal. City officials have also declined to discuss if Lenard Engineering would be considered to draft improvements to the city water system.
Tilcon is Plainville’s second largest taxpayer. Lee said Thursday he would not attend the public hearing. He did say that Plainville could benefit from the plan because blasting will take place farther away from homes and there is the potential to blend New Britain’s water with Plainville’s water source, so that the town’s water is softened.
Lee envisioned a scenario where the town of Plainville could get water from New Britain to augment the water supplied by Valley to soften the water for Plainville residents if Tilcon gets approval for the project.
Plainville Town Council Chair Kathy Pugliese said she will likely attend the hearing, but she wasn’t sure how many other town council members would attend. She declined to offer an opinion on the project, calling it “imprudent” before the state reviews take place.
Southington town officials asked Protect Our Watersheds CT founder attorney Paul Zagorsky to present information on the study and the plan to them Monday night - the day before the hearing. Zagorsky has lead a spirited opposition to plan. A similar proposal failed under heavy opposition in 2007. Zagorsky anticipated that the parking lot to Gaffney school would be overflowing and that area residents, environmentalists, city and state officials would attend the hearing.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.