NEW BRITAIN -Environmentalists told the state Water Planning Council Tuesday that there is no policy in place to stop proponents of the Tilcon quarry expansion proposal from going to the legislature for approval if the plan is reject by the state Department of Public Health.
“We’re concerned that there should at least be some alternative to people going around the DPH directly to the legislature,” said Margaret Miner, executive director of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut who also sits on advisory working groups for the WPC. “Laws that protect Class I or Class II watersheds should hold up. But these types of applications are troublesome to everyone but the applicant.”
Miner said when Tilcon decided to resurrect the plan, which failed to gain approval in 2007, they sought legislation to go ahead with the project. Instead, Miner explained, the legislature required the city of New Britain to pay for an environmental study of the plan.
The WPC and the state Council on Environmental Quality are reviewing the 500-page environmental study on the project, which would allow Tilcon to mine 131 acres of Class I and Class II protected watershed owned by the New Britain Water Company,, for 35 to 40 years before turning it back to the city as a reservoir.
A two-member subcommittee of the CEQ reviewing the study indicated last week that they felt the document “minimized” the environmental impact of the proposal and “highlighted” the benefits. Environmentalists throughout the state have contested the proposed quarry expansion toward Bradley Mountain and Crescent Lake. They say it will destroy the watershed that acts as a filter and tributary to Shuttle Meadow Reservoir. They also contend the work would kill wildlife and plants in the area.
Groups like Miner’s and Protect Our Watersheds CT are also concerned that a change in land use for the project would imperil every watershed in the state. The state law passed in 2016 that required the study delineates the review process, which includes public comment and recommendations by the WPC and CEQ. But the state Department of Public Health will have to approve the change in land use since Class I and Class II watersheds are protected by state law.
The WPC and the CEQ will provide the legislature’s committees dealing with the environment with a summary of all the public comments received and their recommendations.
But it is unclear if the legislature will be required to take action on the change in land use. WPC members including Lori Mathieu, the chief of the Drinking Water Section of the DPH, told Miner and Karen Burnaska, with the Endangered Lands Coalition who is also on a WPC advisory working group, that the law enabling New Britain to commission the study does not specify if the proposal must be approved by the legislature.
“Anything that takes away the authority of Commissioner (Raul) Pino (the head of the DPH) is of concern, but this law doesn’t do that,” Mathieu said.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or .