HARTFORD – At least two members of a state agency required to review the environmental study on the proposed Tilcon quarry expansion have expressed concerns about the document and the project.
During an early Tuesday morning of the subcommittee of the state Council on Environmental Quality assigned to review the 500-page study, members said the study, which was required by law, “minimizes the environmental impact” of the proposed quarry expansion toward Bradley Mountain and Crescent Lake while “highlighting” the benefits.
“The consequences (of the project) were glossed over in the executive summary,” which is what most people will read, said CEQ member Alicea Charmut who along with member Kip Kolesinkas were assigned to review the study done by Lenard Engineering and then report back their findings to the entire council.
Kolesinkas also pointed out that the project didn’t appear to be “feasible” and that if a municipality wanted to expand its water resources, “there are other ways to do it that would produce benefits” to the community.
The hotly debated plan would allow Tilcon to mine 131 acres of protected watershed, which is owned by the New Britain Water Company, for 35 to 40 years, before turning it back to the city as a reservoir. Tilcon would give Plainville, Southington and New Britain 291 acres of open space and the company would pay New Britain an as yet undisclosed amount for the mining rights to property.
The release of the 500-page study done by Lenard Engineering last month signaled the start of a lengthy process of state agency review before the plan is presented to the legislature for approval. The proposal has already faced stiff opposition from environmentalists statewide and area residents who fear not only the destruction of the watershed but the law change that they feel could imperil every protected watershed in the state.
The environmental study indicates the project would likely destroy species of salamanders and box turtles in the area, displace other animals who are not likely to remain on Bradley Mountain and would require the rerouting of the Metacomet trail.
But the project, which would require a legislative change in land use to mine the protected watershed that leads to the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir, would nearly double the city’s available water supply, the same report said.
CEQ members are now trying to figure out a sensible way to gather public comment on the study in advance of the subcommittee’s next meeting in April. The comments, along comments from the entire council and the Water Planning Council will be forwarded to the legislature in August after the city of New Britain has staged a public hearing. CEQ staff is hoping to provide a link on the agency’s website that will allow people to leave written comments. People will also be allowed to speak during the council’s next full meeting in late April.
Several members of Protect Our Watersheds CT which opposes the plan attended Tuesday’s meeting but opted not to comment. The group has staged presentations about the potential environmental impact of the project throughout the area.
The Tilcon project is also on the agenda of the WPC’s next meeting Tuesday at the Public Utility Regulatory Agency building on Franklin Square in New Britain.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.