NEW BRITAIN - A city-funded environmental report on a proposed Tilcon quarry expansion says that the project will nearly double the city’s water supply in 40 to 45 years.
The study was required by law as part of the proposal to allow Tilcon to mine 131 acres of protected watershed owned by the New Britain Water Co.
According to the executive summary of the 500-plus page report, the mining would leave a reservoir that would increase the city’s water supply by 45 percent.
Tilcon and the city had estimated in 2016 that the reservoir created by the project could provide 160,000 gallons of drinking water a day.
But the report released by the state Council on Environmental Quality Wednesday said the new reservoir could safely provide 2 million gallons daily, according to Lenard Engineering of Glastonbury, the firm hired by the city in 2007 and 2016 to do an environmental impact study of the project.
A similar quarry proposal died in 2008 amid stiff public opposition.
The study released Wednesday also indicated that the quality of the water in the new reservoir wouldn’t be significantly different from water in the city’s current reservoirs. The tests were based on “samples assumed to be representative of the proposed reservoir,” the report said.
The report also indicated that “no impacts to the existing air quality permits or potential emissions are anticipated as a result of the quarry expansion.”
Under the proposal, Tilcon would mine New Britain-owned protected watershed land in Plainville for 40 to 50 years before returning it to the city as a reservoir. Tilcon would lease the land from the city for an unspecified amount during the mining and give nearly 300 acres of open space to Plainville, New Britain and Southington. The city has said that no financial terms have been discussed.
In a 2007 proposal, Tilcon offered the city of New Britain $15 million to lease the mineral rights to the property.
The state legislature must vote to approve a change of use for the land in order for Tilcon to mine the property. The state Department of Health also must sign off on the plan.
A law passed in 2016 delineated the steps the city must take in order to get the project on the legislative agenda, including hiring a consultant to do an environmental study of the area. Lenard Engineering worked on the study for more than a year. The Council on Environmental Quality is one of two agencies that must comment on the plan before it goes to the city and the state legislature for approval.
The CEQ and the state Water Planning Council will have 90 days to review the report and submit comments to the city. The city will have 60 days to hold a public hearing on the findings of the study.
City officials and Tilcon representatives said Wednesday they have not yet seen the report.
“While Tilcon has not received the report, we understand that Lenard Engineering has released its study on a proposed change of use of watershed lands in Plainville owned by the City of New Britain,” said a statement from Tilcon. “When we receive the report, we will spend the time necessary to learn more about the study’s results and findings. As appropriate, the company will also participate in the review process established by the legislature.”
The proposal has attracted vocal opposition from area residents and environmentalists, who fear that the change in land use will imperil protected watersheds throughout the state. Protect Our Watersheds CT, a group formed after the 2016 proposal came to light, has at least 2,500 signatures on a petition asking the legislature to reject the plan.
Attorney Paul Zagorsky, one of the founders of the group, asked the CEQ Wednesday morning to consider going to the watershed site before making its written recommendations to the city and the state.
“You’ll see what’s at stake here and what’s going to happen,” said Zagorsky, who handed out photos of plants and animals that can be found in the watershed, a tributary of Shuttle Meadow Reservoir.
Tilcon President Gary Wall told The Herald in November 2016 that his company has another 25 years of mining left in the current quarry off Woodford Avenue in Plainville. The proposal would extend the quarry toward Bradley Mountain in Southington.
Plainville officials said Wednesday that the Woodford Avenue operation off Woodford Avenue was reaching its boundaries but still has more than a dozen years left.
Tilcon also owns more than 175 acres of land in a quarry off North Mountain Road that has seen minimal activity through the years, according to a July 2017 town Planning and Zoning Commission report.
The company’s main quarrying operation on Woodford Avenue includes large processing equipment, said Plainville Town Planner Mark DeVoe. The company would either have to transport the rock from the North Mountain Road quarry to Woodford Avenue for processing or move the equipment to effectively mine the 175-acre property, Devoe said.