A subcommittee of the Council on Environmental Quality contends that the environmental study of the proposed Tilcon mining expansion “overlooked” or “insufficiently examined” several key aspects of the project, including its impact on wildlife and water quality.
Tilcon wants to mine 131 acres of protected watershed in Plainville owned by the New Britain Water Department for 40 years before returning the property to New Britain as a “storage reservoir.” The project has been contested by area residents and environmentalists throughout the state.
As part of the approval process, the council and the state Water Planning Commission were required to review the study done by Glastonbury-based Lenard Engineering and submit their comments, along with the comments generated by the public, to the city, which will host a public hearing on the project in the next few months.
The council has received more than 200 written comments from residents, environmental groups and organizations such as land trusts, panning both the study and the proposal.
A two-member council subcommittee met Monday to put the final touches on the review of the study before it is presented to the entire council Wednesday morning.
The study “grossly overestimated” New Britain’s projected increase in population, left out any explanation of how water “flood skimmed” from Coppermine Brook would travel to the “storage reservoir,” failed to make the case that the city needs a larger water supply and failed to examine the full environmental impacts of mining on wildlife and the forest, concluded Alicea Charmut and Kip Kolesinkas.
“I would have expected there would have been some sort of proposal on the infrastructure,” Charmut said. “It’s an important detail when you are talking about bringing water to the storage reservoir.”
New Britain Water Department acting Director Ray Esponda said he didn’t know how much it would cost to capture the overflow from Coppermine Brook in Bristol and direct it toward the reservoir, which would be located in Plainville as an extension of Tilcon’s current quarry operation off Woodford Avenue.
The quarry expansion would head toward Bradley Mountain, mining Class I and Class II watershed land that acts as a tributary and natural filter for Shuttle Meadow Reservoir.
Esponda also said he didn’t know why Lenard didn’t include in its analysis of the city’s water supply the 1.2 million gallons of water a day that can be drawn from Patton Brook Well, a water asset that the city tried to sell to Southington in 2016 during the height of a months-long drought.
Charmut and Kolesinkas also wrote in their draft report that Lenard considered no alternatives to the storage reservoir to increase water supply, including water conservation, which would be achieved by replacing aging pipes and providing the public with information on limiting summer water use.
“There are many other ways through conservation and setting new standards that would be less costly economically and have many other benefits environmentally,” Kolesinkas said.
Lenard projected that New Britain’s population would rise 16 percent in coming years - a gross overestimate, the council subcommittee said.
According to state figures, the city’s population is expected to rise 1 percent, said Paul Zagorsky, a New Britain lawyer and environmental activist who has fought the Tilcon proposal from the start.
“That’s a significant difference,” said Zagorsky, who was at Monday’s meeting.
“The [council] subcommittee comments about conservation were spot on, and for Lenard to essentially ignore conservation, only applying it to passive residential use, is another significant omission,” Zagorsky said. “I totally agree with the well-founded [council] comments that conservation can increase supply, and that it is far less costly socially, economically and environmentally.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.