State Holds Hearing on Water Supply to Miami Beach and Hawk’s Nest in Old Lyme

in Old Lyme/Port Authority

OLD LYME — The Miami Beach Water Company, which serves 117 residences within the Miami Beach Association and at Hawk’s Nest Beach is under investigation for failing to comply with a state order concerning the availability, or potability, or the provision of water at adequate volume and pressure. 

In a May 29, 2019 letter to First Selectman Bonnie Reemsnyder from Public Utilities Regulatory Authority Executive Secretary Jeffery R. Gaudiosi, the town was informed that the Department of Public Health and PURA, were establishing a joint proceeding, filed as PURA docket 18-11-01, to examine Miami Beach Water Company’s failure to comply with an order pursuant to §§25-32 and 25-34 of the General Statutes of Connecticut

On Tuesday night, a hearing to receive public comments for docket 18-11-01 was held at Town Hall, led by Kathryn K. Keenan, staff attorney and hearing officer of the Public Health Hearing Office. She was joined by Tiffany Tisler, staff attorney for PURA..

“The departments will determine the actions that may be taken and the expenditures that may be required, including acquisition of the water company by a suitable public or private entity, to assure the availability and purity of water at adequate volume and pressure to the persons served by the water company at a reasonable cost,” said Keenan. “Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §§16-262l and 16-262o, the departments may pursue an order of attachment and receivership or order the acquisition of the water company by the most suitable public or private entity.”

Speaking at the microphone, David Mitchell, who lives at 64 Columbus Avenue said that MBWC has provided the sole source of potable water to his residence since the 1970s. He purchased the house in the 1950s.

“Any changes or deviations from this supply of water will have a detrimental impact to us and prevent the use of our property,” he said. “We’d like some clarification of the process of the investigation, its timeline and secondarily how it might be phased so that disruption to the water supply is [limited].” 

The Mitchells and their neighbors, Constance Holmes, Patricia Theriault and Sandra Mitchell submitted letters to PURA during October stating their “significant interest in the investigation of the Miami Beach Water Company (MBWC) by the Connecticut Department of Health (DPH) and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) considering the future viability of the MBWC to provide safe drinking water to local residents under state regulations and/or whether the State will direct the acquisition of the Company and its water supply responsibilities by another suitable public or private entity.”

Elizabeth Atwood, of 61 Columbus Avenue, said her family has owned property at Hawk’s Nest Beach for many years and relied on Miami Beach Water Company as the water source. She said her property is not currently part of the Miami Beach Association’s future sewer plan. She asked for clarification about whether the water source would transfer to the Connecticut Water Company.

“I have an elderly mother and children and these water sources are important to me,” she said. 

Lou Riccelli, of 21 Columbus Avenue, said he and his wife have owned their property for about 20 years. He said he was in favor of Connecticut Water Company becoming the water source for his neighborhood. 

“If Connecticut Water would come down, then everyone could have clean reliable water source,” he said. 

Matthew Ranelli, of Shipman & Goodwin in New Haven, who spoke on behalf of the Miami Beach Association, and Miami Beach Water Pollution Control Authority, said the beach association and WPCA have intense interest in the outcome of this matter. 

“Clean and reliable drinking water is essential to the Miami Beach Association community. The MBA and the MBA WPCA have offered repeatedly to help all the other parties involved here to come up with a solution and that remains our position,” Ranelli said. 

Ranelli asked that the timing of the sewage construction in Miami Beach be taken into consideration when a drinking water solution is determined. 

“We would urge PURA and the DPH to act as quickly as reasonably possible so that … the upgrade of the drinking water system can be coordinated with the capital improvements that will be needed for the of the sanitary sewer system,” he said, adding that the sewer construction is anticipated in late 2020. 

Richard Sobolewski, supervisor of utility financial analysis in the Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel, said he and members of his staff were “very interested in the outcome of this case.”

“We’ve been involved in five or six of the water systems here in Old Lyme and we understand the problems that are going on at the beach,” he said. “We look for a good resolution to provide good water to the customer at a fair and reasonable price and we’re looking for the best solution on how to go forward.” 

Also in the audience were attorney Tim Jensen, of O’Sullivan McCormack Jensen & Bliss in Wethersfield, who represent the Miami Beach Water Company and Michael Girard, president of the Miami Beach Water Company. Also present were David Connors, director of service delivery for Connecticut Water Company and Bonnie Reemsnyder, first selectman for the town of Old Lyme.

When the public was finished speaking, Keenan said the departments will hold additional daytime hearings to receive evidence directly from the parties. 

“These have not yet been scheduled,” she said. “While no comments will be received from the general public at those hearings, the public are welcome to attend if they wish.”

Additional written comments referencing docket 18-11-01 may be sent to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, 10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051.

Additional information on the case can be found here.