Stewart pulls support for Tilcon's mining, reservoir plans

Published on Wednesday, 22 August 2018 21:13
Written by LISA BACKUS

@LBACKUSNBH

NEW BRITAIN - Mayor Erin Stewart announced Wednesday she’s revoked the city’s participation in the proposed Tilcon mining expansion.

Tilcon President Gary Wall then wrote to Stewart to tell her he “concurred” with her decision.

“We agree with many interested parties that the Lenard [environmental] Study and the public have raised several issues which would require further review before any such project could move forward,” Stewart wrote Wednesday to John Betkoski, the head of the state’s Water Planning Council.

Stewart went on say that, due to the cost of further studies, she was withdrawing her support for the project.

The city spent $350,000 to get an environmental impact study, which was widely viewed as inadequate and skewed in favor of the mining project.

“I have concluded that the most prudent course of action at this time would be withdrawal of the proposal from further consideration,” Stewart said.

The move effectively kills the proposal since the project would have allowed Tilcon to mine 74 acres of protected watershed owned by the New Britain Water Department but located in Plainville.

Tilcon would have mined the property for 40 years before returning the quarry back to the city as a reservoir. The city would have been paid an undisclosed amount for the mining rights to the land.

A spirited opposition to the project worked for more than two years to tell state residents of the dangers of the plan, including possible pollution of New Britain’s water supply.

“The mayor testified before the legislature in March 2016 that ‘this has the ability to make extraordinary quality-of-life changes - for the better - in our communities for generations to come.’ The public overwhelmingly disagreed. This was an indefensible proposal with disastrous consequences to the environment and the New Britain and Southington water supply systems,” said Paul Zagorsky, a lawyer who helped found Protect Our Watersheds CT to battle the plan.

“It’s about time - and long overdue - that New Britain’s interests and voices are put ahead of Tilcon’s,” Zagorsky continued. “What about the fact the city spent, at her request, $354,000 on a study that has been found to be flawed and incomplete?”

A similar plan proposed by Stewart’s father, former Mayor Timothy Stewart, was also rejected amid heavy opposition in 2007.

“This was long overdue for a number of reasons,” said retired Central Connecticut State University President Richard Judd, who worked with Zagorsky and his group to defeat the plan. “The first of which was the study done by Lenard, which was a very poor study with a lot of lack to it.”

Judd called every drop of water for New Britain residents “precious” and speculated that the proposal “won’t come back to bite us.”

The Water Planning Council and the state Council on Environmental Quality panned the project earlier this year after examining a 500-page study done by Lenard Engineering on the potential impacts of the plan on the watershed.

Both agencies were preparing to file documents with the state legislature on their findings and submit hundreds of public comments against the plan that have been received in recent months when Stewart indicated she no longer supported the plan.

Since the project would have required a change in the use of a protected watershed, the plan was required to be reviewed by the legislature and the state Department of Public Health.

Although Plainville officials didn’t openly oppose the plan - Tilcon is the town’s second-largest taxpayer - the Southington Water Department announced recently that the current quarry is already damaging Southington’s water supply by shifting the water flow toward the quarry and away from Crescent Lake.

Tilcon wanted to expand the quarry to within a half-mile of Crescent Lake, which is used to augment water flow in the Quinnipiac River during periods of drought.

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



Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain, Plainville on Wednesday, 22 August 2018 21:13. Updated: Wednesday, 22 August 2018 21:16.