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From Across The Aisle 5/6/16

 

My last column reported facts about environmental contamination at the Country Club of Woodbridge, including a “Significant Environmental Hazard” in the maintenance area – chlordane (a pesticide banned since 1988) and arsenic in shallow soil at more than 30 times acceptable levels.

At the April Board of Selectmen’s meeting, the First Selectman harshly criticized me for writing about this subject. I am surprised that she responded so negatively. As the Town’s elected officials, we should want to know these facts and make them available to the public.

The First Selectman responded to my request and held a meeting last week with Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) officials and the Town’s environmental consultant, HRP Associates, to address the contamination. Based on this meeting and review of additional documents, it is clear that the previous Town administration had been placed on a cleanup schedule by DEEP and was complying with that schedule. In 2009, DEEP directed the Town to investigate the entire property and begin cleanup within three years. During the investigation, the Town found the Significant Environmental Hazard in the Maintenance Area and duly reported it to the State. Further, the Town – through its environmental consultant – informed the State that cleanup of the Maintenance Area was “dependent on incorporating the estimated remediation expenses in the municipal fiscal budget. Under normal circumstances, funding for the project would become available July 1, 2012.”

As we now know the plan to begin cleanup in FY12-13 was not carried out. HRP was hired in September 2012 to create a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) for the Maintenance Area. At that time, HRP estimated that the creation of the RAP and the removal of the contaminated soil could happen within one year. But the RAP was not actually issued until March 9, 2016 – three and a half years after it was authorized. Under law, the Town bears the responsibility to clean up this contamination promptly. I am particularly concerned about the residents living near the CCW who received official notification from HRP last month that a remediation was going to occur. I am troubled that the notification letter provides confusing statements about the contamination and offers no date for starting the cleanup, leaving a “cloud” over their properties.

Last week’s meeting with DEEP officials lasted nearly three hours, and was filled with long, uncomfortable pauses by the HRP representatives when they were asked pointed questions. The representatives from HRP failed to adequately explain the long gap between the commencement of their work on the RAP and its eventual delivery. Still other unanswered questions remain: when will the Town actually perform the cleanup of the Maintenance Area? When will a RAP be created for the other areas on the property that require cleanup, especially the Halfway House at the corner of Ansonia and Johnson Roads, which HRP identified as the next priority? With no schedule for the remediation and no funding for it in the Town’s budget, neighboring residents are being left in limbo. The First Selectman should carry out the plan originally set forth by DEEP and state statute and begun by her predecessor, Ed Sheehy. She should start cleaning up this environmental contamination.

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

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