NEW BRITAIN – Just two days after Mayor Erin Stewart pulled the plug on the project, two state agencies required to review the proposed Tilcon mining expansion told legislators that they were also opposed to the plan.
The state Council on Environmental Quality and the state Water Planning Council were required under Public Act 16-61 to review the project then submit their findings to the state legislature.
The project had called for Tilcon to mine 74 acres of protected watershed located in Plainville that acts as a tributary to Shuttle Meadow Reservoir.
The act also specified that the city of New Britain had to pay for an environmental study of the proposal.
In order for Tilcon to mine the land, the state legislature would have had to pass a law allowing a change in use for the protected watershed.
Under the plan, Tilcon would have paid the city for the mining rights to the property and then returned the quarry to the New Britain Water Department as a “storage reservoir” when the mining was completed in 40 years.
The project drew heavy opposition from area residents and environmentalists who feared that the destruction of the watershed would not only harm animals in the area, but would also pollute the city’s water supply.
Earlier this year, the WPC and CEQ pointed out several flaws in a 500-page study done by Lenard Engineering on the potential environmental impact of the plan.
The two state agencies determined that Lenard used exaggerated future population figures, which also exaggerated the need for more water, and failed to include all of the city’s existing water assets such as Patton Brook Well in the study.
The WPC and CEQ also pointed out that Lenard concluded that the new “storage reservoir” would be filled with “flood-skimmed” water which the dirtiest type of water source and would likely drive up future treatment costs.
The agencies submitted hundreds of comments, most overwhelmingly against the plan, their own conclusions about the 500-page study and any rebuttals or city comments in favor of the project to the state legislature’s Environment and Public Health Committees on Friday.
“The submittals of both the WPC and the CEQ conclude that the need for the proposed new reservoir has not been substantiated and based on their separate reviews, both the WPC and CEQ find the proposal’s risks to the current water system and the environment are significant,” WPC Chairman John Betkoski said on behalf of the entire council.
“Thus both the WPC and the CEQ are opposed to the city of Britain’s proposal for the proposed quarry expansion and future water storage reservoir.”
Their conclusions were a moot point by Friday, since two days prior Stewart had announced that she was pulling the city out of the project, in part due to the cost of further studies.
It was a win for opponents of the plan who waged a two-year battle to get the proposal off the table.
A similar plan also died under heavy opposition in 2007.
“This submission (by the agencies) sends a powerful message about protecting our watershed, they aren’t just closing the door on this, they’re nailing it shut,” said Attorney Paul Zagorsky, one of the leading opponents of the plan.
“Both the CEQ and WPC are to be commended for the exemplary manner in which they have undertaken their responsibilities under Public Act 16-61,” Zagorsky said.
The same can’t be said for Lenard and Mayor Stewart, who, despite the clear language of the act and being admonished at the outset that this is to be an environmental study, not a mining study, compiled a flawed and admittedly incomplete study which both state reviewing agencies found lacking. The statutory mandate was to do an environmental study on the impact of a change is use of protected watershed, not a Tilcon quarry feasibility study.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.