NEW BRITAIN – The state Water Planning Council on Tuesday denied a request by the city and Lenard Engineering to submit more information on the Tilcon quarry expansion plans to the agency.
The WPC is preparing to submit final documents on the proposed project to the legislature.
“We’re not going to allow that,” WPC Chairman Jack Betkoski, a vice chairman of the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, told James Ericson, Lenard’s vice president, as the engineer tried to explain that all water from the quarrying project would be pumped off site.
“It’s compromising the process, I think we have been very fair to all parties,” Betkoski said.
The WPC, made up of representatives from four state departments dealing with water planning, is required by state law created to explore the Tilcon project and to submit their findings and several other documents, including a summary of public comments, to the legislature by Aug. 26.
The agency held its regular monthly meeting Tuesday afternoon, in part to discuss what it needed to submit to the legislature on the project by the deadline.
The proposal would require a vote by the legislature to allow Tilcon to mine Class I and Class II protected watersheds owned by the New Britain Water Department for 40 to 50 years. When the mining is complete, Tilcon would return the quarry to the city as a “storage reservoir.” Tilcon would pay the city for the mining rights and would donate open space to New Britain, Plainville and Southington as part of the deal.
According to a law enacted in 2016, the city was required to hire an outside consultant to do a study on the potential environmental impact of the project. The study done by Lenard was released at the end of February. The WPC and the state Council on Environmental Quality were required to review the 500-page report on the study and submit comments. Both agencies panned the project, saying it had the potential to pollute the city’s water supply.
Ericson and Ray Esponda, the director of the Water Department, have been backtracking since providing comment and a public presentation explaining aspects of the project that weren’t explained in the study.
WPC member Lori Mathieu, a representative from the state Department of Public Health, told the other members that she was surprised to hear the two explaining new facets of the project during a public hearing on the project on June 26.
“Forty-eight people testified,” Mathieu said. “Of the 48, 46 were against it and two spoke for it.”
Esponda and Ericson tried to give the council the same presentation they offered residents during the public hearing, but WPC member David Kalafa, a representative from the state Office of Policy and Management, pointedly asked why more information was needed now. “Why wasn’t it included (in the study)?” Kalafa asked. “Our charge was to review the report on the study.”
Betkoski then said the city and Lenard “couldn’t have another bite of the apple” by rebutting the council’s conclusions on the project.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.