Llodra, Hwang Join Flood Of Opposition To New DEEP Storm Water Regulations [Newtown Bee]

December 26, 2014

Article as it appeared in the Newtown Bee

As shoppers, travelers, and commuters passed by or parked overhead during the rainy Christmas holiday, storm water infused with surplus pesticides left over on lawns mixed with sand and ice melt chemicals, as well as liquids from those passing or parked vehicles, and slowly seeped into the ground below.

That polluted runoff eventually finds its way to Long Island Sound via stream and rivers like Newtown’s Pootatuck — and into local groundwater that feeds residential wells, where its effects on the environment and public health take their toll.

In response, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is attempting, for the second time, to improve its regulations related to such runoff — referred to by the technical definition: nonpoint source pollution. But those proposed regulations, the subject of a recent statewide public hearing, would be initiated at apparent great cost to local municipalities.

If enacted, the estimated cost to initiate monitoring and mitigation of that nonpoint source pollution in Newtown could exceed $5 million to establish enhanced collection and mitigation practices, and another $3 million annually to maintain them.

Whether DEEP enhancement to its General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4 General Permit) happens as proposed has many municipal leaders and other officials very concerned. Among them are Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra and Senator-elect Tony Hwang.

The proposed “MS4,” was also a topic of discussion at the Western Connecticut Council of Governments’ Legislative Breakfast December 11 where members called for DEEP to revise its updated proposal to give greater considerations to its member municipalities’ financial and operational concerns, while limiting undue costs and burdens.

Ahead of the December 17 public hearing on the issue, Mr Hwang dispatched a letter to DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee, where he joined constituents and communities in the 28th District in expressing deep concern about the incredible weight that the “proposed MS4 Permit would have as an unfunded mandate on our already cash-strapped municipal budgets.”

“While I, like our local leaders, remain steadfast in my support and advocacy of our state’s leading efforts of environmental stewardship and advocacy, I believe that any successful regulation must strike a fair and equitable balance for all parties involved,” Mr Hwang stated. “Given your department’s record of inclusiveness and responsiveness, I am encouraged that the proposed MS4 Permit will be fully vetted and, ultimately, reflect both the best interests of our towns and the environment.”

Llodra Weighs In

Mrs Llodra appeared at the hearing and provided The Newtown Bee a text of her statement in which she told officials that Newtown shares DEEP’s commitment to clean water.

“We fully engaged the old MS4 permit issued in 2004 and reissued in 2009. Overall, we met the requirements of the permit, thus being among those elite 25 percent of the municipalities in compliance,” Mrs Llodra said.

She explained that Newtown sweeps all its roads and public parking lots each spring/summer season — “that is 275 miles of road and numerous parking lots to be swept, no easy feat under the best of circumstances and very challenging under tight budget conditions.”

She noted that the community also schedules catch basin cleaning regularly, and the community remains “very diligent with erosion and sedimentation rules and regulations. We did outfall mapping and testing. And we continue to do extensive outreach and education with the public.”

Virtually all of Newtown’s potable water originates from its sole source aquifer, Mrs Llodra said, “so we are fully committed to those best practices which ensure that these waters will remain clean and potable for generations to come.”

The first selectman said Newtown wants to be compliant and will do whatever is necessary and appropriate to achieve and sustain clean water.

“Given, however, that the start-up cost for Newtown is more than $5 million and the initiative carries an annual cost of about $3 million, we subject this proposal to a rigorous level of scrutiny,” Mrs Llodra said. “Asking us to spend that kind of money — knowing that we will compromise every other aspect of public service in order to comply, you’d better be able to make a strong case.”

Too Many Questions

Among the questions the first selectman is asking is where is the cost-benefit analysis that shows the benefits to be achieved warrant the cost? and where is the science to quantify the expected improvements in water quality?

“And, speaking of science,” Mrs Llodra stated, “where is the analysis from all the data we compliant municipalities have been collecting and sending to you? What do we know about the efficacy [or not] of the current regulations?” she asked. “Where is the analysis that shows what gains might be made if we were to achieve a level of say even 75 percent of the municipalities compliant with the current permit?”

There are so many questions at so many levels, Mrs Llodra said it would require documents and time much greater than she had available or that she believed DEEP officials had patience for.

“The process used to generate these regulations is flawed, the science is weak or absent, the conclusions well-meaning but ill advised, and the impact if regs move forward calls for municipal actions which are not logistically, operationally, or financially feasible or attainable,” Mrs Llodra added.

“The detail of those costs for Newtown — and the sheer impossibility of managing the proposed regs — have been submitted for your review. If these regulations do go forward, it is likely that Newtown will join the current 75 percent of the municipalities non-compliant with permit requirements,” the first selectman concluded. “I would suggest that what is being considered is so insensitive, uninformed and poorly contrived as to require wholesale revocation of the proposal. In the words of our PW director — this proposal is not ready for prime time.”

Newtown Public Works Director Fred Hurley appeared at the hearing as well, echoing the concerns expressed by the first selectman.