With recent hurricane activity, it’s easy to forget that we’ve faced severe drought in the past and will in the future, brought on by climate change and expanded water usage from development. It is impossible to predict the future, but unfortunately, the Department of Energy & Environment Protection has done just that — it has decided that we don’t need seven million gallons a day of water from the Hemlocks Reservoir for the next 25 years; and that we don’t need to monitor the downstream impact because there ‘will be no downstream impact”.
This was the comment in DEEP’s ‘proposed final decision’ which if finalized, will approve a 25-year permit to divert 7 million gallons a day of water from Mill River watershed in Fairfield, to lower Fairfield County. This is in addition to the 7 million gallons a day already being diverted (of which around 5 million is further sold to the Suez water company in New York State). If this decision is finalized, it will directly affect Cricker Brook, Samp Mortar and Mill River downstream, and all the habitat these water bodies support for the next 25 years.
The hearing officer did not accept any of the intervenors’ proposed conditions of approval such as shortening the permit from 25 years, requiring Aquarion to re-install the USGS water monitoring gauge at the Duck Farm Road bridge to monitor downstream impacts, further study of the Housatonic Wellfields which will be used to replenish the watershed but contain manganese contamination, further study of downstream hydrology and ecological impacts from the proposed added water diversion.
The Town of Fairfield and the other intervening parties – Fairfielders Protecting Land & Neighborhoods (FairPLAN), Mill River Wetlands Committee and the Lake Hills Association – have two chances to challenge the proposed decision by seeking further review within DEEP by September 22, and then if a final decision is issued, by appealing to Superior Court.
I am deeply disappointed in this apparent shocking reversal of the concern DEEP had over Mill River just a few years ago in its unique and effective collaboration with Exide Corp., the Town of Fairfield and FairPLAN in the successful cleanup of lead contamination.
We must continue to fight for the largest river in our town, and for our most precious of resources — our water. Competing demands for the use of all our resources will continue to grow, and we need strong voices at all levels of government. This is why I am running for a seat on Fairfield’s Town Plan and Zoning Commission. As a Commissioner. I will work hard to preserve our town’s natural bounty both in decisions on permit applications and in long term planning, while seeking the best balance of development and preservation for the long term economic and environmental health of our town.