As chairman of the Fairfield RTM's Public Health & Safety Committee -- and an RTM Representative who represents Southport -- I am deeply concerned by certain aspects of the proposed environmental cleanup of the Mill River. For decades, the Mill River was polluted by toxic waste from the former Exide Group Inc. plant near the river. The Mill River, the largest river in the town, flows into Southport Harbor and ultimately into Long Island Sound. It is an important element of our local ecosystem.

Thankfully, the necessary remediation technologies now exist to restore the Mill River nearly to its natural state. To achieve this goal, however, the cleanup process needs to be properly defined and the rules set forth by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and other state and local agencies must followed through to the project's completion. This includes listening to the recommendations of our local commissions and providing our community with ample time to provide input. Our community wants to see this project succeed, but the cleanup must not be rushed. It is an essential environmental initiative that must be done right and done once.

The DEEP's consent order dated Oct. 20, 2008 establishes the sequencing of the permitting process for those responsible for the cleanup.

"On or before ninety (90) days after the Commission has approved, as applicable, a remedial action plan ... pursuant to paragraph B.2.d of this Consent Order, the Respondent shall apply for all permits that are necessary to carry out the remedial action approved by the Commissioner."

The Consent Order was duly recorded in the Land Records of the Town of Fairfield, and has been relied upon by the public as the foundational document on the proposed cleanup process since 2008.

Regrettably, it now appears that Exide has filed applications for coastal permitting and discharge permitting simultaneously with the sediment remedial action plan, which seems to be inconsistent with the process outlined in the consent order.

Moreover, by apparently not following the consent order and proceeding in what appears to be an expedited fashion, Exide's actions could result in the town, municipal bodies and residents not having sufficient time to give full review to the proposed project.

Accordingly, and on behalf of my constituents as an RTM representative, I have respectfully asked the DEEP to intervene to ensure that the previously defined permit application process be followed as per the guidelines established by the DEEP's October 2008 consent order. By doing so, the public and local officials will have more time to fully digest the proposal and to provide the necessary input. Anything less would limit the rights of our townspeople to express their concerns and to be part of the process.

Michael Herley

RTM District 1