Clock ticking for state agencies' mining-study opinions

Published on Tuesday, 6 March 2018 21:38
Written by LISA BACKUS

@LBACKUSNBH

NEW BRITAIN - The two state agencies that must review the 500-page environmental report on the proposed Tilcon mining project have 90 days to forward their comments on the study to the city.

The clock began ticking when the report was released Feb. 28.

The state Council on Environmental Quality decided last week to appoint a subcommittee of two members to review the findings. The entire council will review them during the council’s next meeting, on April 25.

At a meeting Tuesday, the state Water Planning Council decided to have staff from each of the state agencies represented on the council review the report.

The council consists of one representative each from the state Department of Health, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Office of Policy and Management and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

“We’re under a tight window,” said WPC Chairman John Betkoski, who also is vice chairman of PURA. The council plans to discuss the results of the review during its May 1 meeting, Betkoski said.

The city is required to post the review by both agencies on its website no later than 15 days after the comments have been received and hold a public hearing on the plan no later than 30 days after the comments have been received.

The WPC, in consultation with the CEQ, must send the General Assembly’s Environment Committee and Public Health Committee the study, its findings on the study and a summary of public comment on the study within 60 days of the public hearing.

The study can be found on the city’s website at www.newbritainct.gov .

Representatives of Tilcon have already told state legislators that they will not have anything pertaining to the project on the legislative agenda this session.

The project would require a legislative change in land use to allow Tilcon to use 131 acres of city-owned protected watershed in Plainville that leads to the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir. Tilcon would give the quarry back to the city as a reservoir when the mining is complete in 35 to 40 years.

The new reservoir would nearly double New Britain’s available water supply, the study, done by Lenard Engineering said.

The report also indicated that box turtles and certain salamanders would likely be eliminated, as would mammals, birds and other amphibians that live in the vernal pools and other wetlands in which the mining would occur.

The mining would take place on about 70 acres of the parcel, which includes 13.63 acres of Class I protected wetlands and 111 acres of Class II wetlands that serve as tributaries to the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir.

The 500-page report concluded that the water quality from the mined reservoir would be the same as that of the city’s existing supply and that some species of concern, such as the Eastern box turtle, might be able to be “relocated.”

The plan would also reroute the Metacomet Trail on Bradley Mountain and likely cause the denigration of breeding grounds for birds and other animals in the area, the study said.

Former Central Connecticut State University President Richard Judd and Plainville lawyer Paul Zagorsky told the council Tuesday the study was “inadequate.”

“It’s supposed to be an environmental study but it only refers to the environment in 30 pages of the environmental study,” Zagorsky said. “470 pages pertain to what we can do to help Tilcon get their approval for the project.”

Judd said endangered bats were not mentioned in the report, nor were dozens of mammals and other wildlife that live in the area.

“This report is a disaster in terms of the water supply for the area,” Judd said.

Both New Britain residents are involved with Protect Our Watersheds CT, a group formed in 2016 after the proposal was touted by Tilcon and city officials.

The group plans to get biologists and other scientists to review the report and submit their findings to the CEQ and WPC, Judd said.

“When the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir was built in the 1900s, there was a massive amount of industry in the area,” Judd said. “That industry no longer exists. The projections for water use in this report need to reflect that.”

Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.



Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain, Plainville on Tuesday, 6 March 2018 21:38. Updated: Tuesday, 6 March 2018 21:40.