Letter: Don't rush full cleanup of river
On Feb. 26, FairPLAN, along with the first selectman, representatives of the town Shellfish, Harbor Management and Conservation commissions and their staff, and residents, attended a public information session on the Exide/Mill River cleanup project, which began last fall.
The remediation is important because Mill River is an ecological resource and town asset. If not properly remediated, there will be lasting financial and environmental implications.
FairPLAN urges close monitoring and caution with any requested permit changes; speed should be secondary to a proper cleanup. We have this one shot to remediate our largest river and restore it to ecological, and economic health.
According to state environmental officials, once the remediation is signed off as complete, Exide is released from liability. Lead levels that exceed regulations found later will be the town's problem, and taxpayer funds will have to be used for any future remediation. While FairPLAN is pleased with the information exchange the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has facilitated, questions remain, and it appears Exide will not be providing all relevant data to DEEP. It is important that DEEP receive all data on an ongoing basis, instead of averages or summaries, or data provided at the end of a phase or the project.
In 2013, FairPLAN and the town intervened in the DEEP process. The current permits were approved by DEEP after a lengthy negotiation between the DEEP, Exide, the town and FairPLAN. Exide is proposing several changes to speed the project. FairPLAN and the town have expressed concern on details and impacts from these proposed changes.
After the first season of dredging got off to a late start, the project timing appears on track within the approved DEEP permit's timeframe. The upper portion is completed, subject to final lead verification. This Spring the remaining four areas, roughly from I-95 downstream, are scheduled to begin.
Exide has asked to alter the dredging sequence of the river's bottom areas. This change should be accepted only if there is a guarantee of no impact on the migrating species that use the river for spawning.
Exide is also considering a request to increase the volume and length of daily hours to discharge water back into Mill River, and to change final "verification" testing of the sediment. Concerns have been raised about the impact on the river, the data to be provided, and the need for contour maps showing changes to the river bottom. Exide isn't required to restore clean sediment to replace the 25,000-plus cubic yards of material being removed.
The hope is that over time, this material will restore naturally and enable repopulation of plants and animals. Contour maps will help if the town has to aid in restoring life to Mill River.
FairPLAN urges the DEEP to weigh the need for full remediation over expediency when considering any requests to change the project.
Alexis Harrison, chairman
Fairfielders Protecting Land and Neighborhoods
Nearly entire RTM, not
just GOP, backed plan
Feb. 27 letter by RTM Majority Leader Ed Bateson and Deputy Majority Leader Michael Herley ("Lawyer's about face clouds school project") states the Republican caucus "unanimously endorsed additional funding for completion of the [Osborn Hill] project, including the walkway" at the most recent RTM meeting.
Democratic RTM members were in full support of the OHS project and the additional funds for the walkway as well, as evidenced by our vote on the bond and the sense of the body for the additional funds. Incidentally, support for the walkway was not, in fact, unanimous, as reported by Reps. Bateson and Herley, evidenced by the lone abstention by Republican Rep. Donovan (District 1).
However, what is most important is the fact that very nearly all of the RTM were united in their support of fully funding the project and restoring walkway funds, serving the best interests of the students, parents and staff of the Osborn Hill community.
When the RTM is positively aligned and in agreement on an issue, as it is and was on the OHS project, it does all of us -- and indeed, our constituents -- a great disservice to point fingers and make incorrect assumptions that certain actions are only made to serve political interests and interfere with public service and decision-making.
Despite the speculation of Reps. Bateson and Herley, there was no political agenda dictating the discussion and decisions on the floor. The requested clarification by Rep. Hal Schwartz was simply that -- a request to ensure the body's decision to add funds for the walkway would not invalidate the approval of the critical funding of the bond and, therefore, jeopardize the necessary completion of the school renovation. No more, no less.
To presume certain actions were politically driven is misplaced and wrongly clouds the body's collaborative work and positive decision-making. The RTM passed the additional funding as it was presented so there would be no delay in the necessary funding and completion of the Osborn Hill School project. The Democratic caucus is looking forward to approving the walkway when it comes before the RTM in the very near future.
In their letter, Representatives Bateson and Herley state, "School safety and security is best served by timely action, not politics." We couldn't agree more.
RTM Minority Leader
RTM Deputy Minority Leader
Kudos to school board
for holding public forum
It provided an excellent forum for citizens to express their views and have a beneficial exchange. I for one would like to see more townwide forums to improve communications and involve more citizens in discussion of community issues.