After continued heavy opposition from constituents, New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart has joined Southington officials in withdrawing the city’s support for Tilcon’s plan to expand its operations into protected land. Finally, the mayor has done the right thing - more than two years later.
Claiming that it’s running out of rock to blow up, Tilcon wanted to mine 74 acres of the watershed that acts as a tributary to Shuttle Meadow Reservoir. In exchange, Tilcon said it would pay the city for the mining rights and would donate open space to New Britain, Southington and Plainville, as well as return the quarry as a storage reservoir after 40 to 50 years.
The plan needed to be approved by the state legislature, though what truly mattered was the nearly unanimous disdain members of the New Britain community had for it.
This wasn’t the first time Tilcon had raised this proposal. Mayor Timothy Stewart, Mayor Erin Stewart’s father, supported a similar plan in 2007. It failed to come to fruition, and the current Stewart administration had attempted to pick up the pieces, disregarding hundreds of residents’ comments and the environmental impacts.
There was never a reason to create a new reservoir when Shuttle Meadow already exists and is in need of protection. Moreover, there was absolutely no justification for destroying plant and animal life for mining, especially when the land housing that plant and animal life is so close to New Britain’s public drinking supply.
Even further, the risk of diminishing the amount of drinking water - an issue which Southington is already experiencing because Tilcon’s existing mining operations have changed the topography of the land, causing water to run toward the quarry rather than Crescent Lake - should have thrown the project into the trash right away.
But it took the Stewart administration over two years to comprehend these devastating impacts, the promise of financial gain blinding the obvious for too long.
Even after pulling the plug, Mayor Erin Stewart will not directly acknowledge the environmental damage and the potential contamination of New Britain’s water, saying simply that the project had “several issues.”
She also cited the $350,000 the city spent on an environmental impact study that ended up inadequate and biased toward Tilcon. That was money that could have gone toward the watershed’s protection.
However, it seems that the Stewart administration isn’t actually concerned about preserving wildlife or the city’s public health. If so much money had not already been wasted on the project, perhaps it would have proceeded as is. It is a relief that its glaring flaws have been recognized, even if that recognition is embarrassingly overdue.
Tilcon’s endeavours would have brought New Britain a short-term monetary gain and a long-term environmental disaster. The quality of water - and consequently the quality of people’s lives - should have never been on the table as a negotiable sacrifice for money.
Kristina Vakhman is a student at Central Connecticut State University and an intern with The Herald.