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From Across The Aisle – 4/8/16

Did you know that there is environmental contamination at the Country Club of Woodbridge (CCW)? The Town learned about the contamination and commissioned detailed reports in 2009, when it purchased the property. Just a few weeks ago, a town resident who lives near the club learned about the contamination and asked former First Selectman (and former CT Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner) Amey Marrella to help her look into the situation. Together they reviewed the environmental reports at Town Hall.

They discovered that more than four years ago the environmental consultant hired by the Town, HRP Associates, recommended that the Town remove contaminated soil from several locations at the CCW and further evaluate the cleanup requirements for the entire property. In the maintenance area, HRP found contamination that falls into a separate category known as a “Significant Environmental Hazard”. The soil there contains the banned pesticide chlordane at more than 30 times acceptable levels, as well as other pollutants. Yet Town records show no evidence that the Town had contacted abutting residents to inform them of the contamination, or begun to clean up the contaminated area. Amey Marrella’s inquiries at Town Hall apparently sparked a reaction by our First Selectman, as Ms. Scalettar invited HRP Associates to speak at the very next Selectmen’s meeting on March 9th. During public comment, before HRP’s presentation, Ms. Marrella set forth a series of detailed questions for the Selectmen to review with the consultant.

HRP neglected to inform the Selectmen that on March 9th – the very day of the Selectmen’s meeting – it had sent a “Notice of Remediation” letter to some residents whose property abuts the CCW and posted a Notice of Remediation in the New Haven Register. Nor were the Selectmen informed that on March 9th HRP submitted to Town Hall a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) for the maintenance area detailing the cleanup process. Curiously, the Board of Selectmen had authorized HRP to prepare the RAP as far back as September 2012 (three years seven months ago), and at that time HRP estimated that it could complete the RAP and remove contaminated soil from the site within one year. Even now, with the RAP and notices finally issued, HRP has offered no time frame for the actual cleanup to occur.

How was this allowed to happen? Why in all of the discussions about the CCW has the First Selectman never presented the details of this contamination to the public? Why did more than 3.5 years pass between the authorization of the RAP and its delivery? And why, during months of budget meetings, has the First Selectman failed to propose budgeting funds sufficient to pay for cleaning up the known contamination at the CCW?

It appears our First Selectman is relying on two rationales to excuse her lack of action. First, at the time the Town bought the CCW state law didn’t set a deadline for completing cleanup of contaminated property. (The law changed just a few weeks after the town’s purchase and now imposes deadlines for cleanup.) Second, there seems to be hope that a buyer of the CCW will assume responsibility for the cleanup. I reject this reasoning. Any purchaser of all or part of the CCW will discount the purchase price by the cost of the remediation, so delay offers no potential savings to the town. The Town has a public duty to ensure the remediation is done correctly, so it should retain responsibility for the cleanup to be sure no corners are cut. Our town should do what is right to protect public health and the environment – not just the minimum that is legally required.

We can’t go back in time, but we should move forward and clean up this environmental contamination. The First Selectman should immediately convene a public informational meeting to specifically address the environmental issues. She should also bring representatives of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to the public meeting to assure residents that private drinking water wells are unaffected by the contamination, that the RAP is sufficient to clean up the maintenance area, and that the cleanup will be performed properly. She then needs to develop an expeditious plan to address all of the contamination as recommended by HRP more than four years ago. I don’t understand why the First Selectman hasn’t focused more attention on these environmental issues to date, especially given her interest in voluntary green measures such as solar power and efficient lighting. She needs to adjust her focus to address the contamination at the CCW.

Maria Cruz Kayne, Selectman is an Unaffiliated Voter who ran on the Republican Ticket. Contact # 203 387 5922.

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