By SHERIDAN CYR
The Tilcon expansion plan in Plainville appears to be on hold…for now.
Mayor Erin Stewart of New Britain sent a letter to the New Britain Water Planning Council on Aug. 22 withdrawing the city’s proposal of consideration of a change of use for the New Britain Water Company land to accommodate a proposed quarry expansion on that land, and the creation of a new public water storage reservoir.
Tilcon Connecticut president Gary Wall agreed to withdraw the proposal from further consideration in a response letter to Stewart, state officials, as well as Southington and Plainville officials. In his letter, Wall defended the way Tilcon handled themselves during the process, citing the company’s cooperation in providing data about operations, offering access to the property, and engaging stakeholders in the community, but he fell short of saying that Tilcon will not revisit the project at a later date.
“In the future, should policymakers express an interest in revisiting this proposal or others that would benefit the public,” he wrote, “we would be happy to engage in discussions about how Tilcon Connecticut may contribute to solutions that enhance the central Connecticut community.”
Commonly referred to as the Tilcon quarry expansion project amongst Connecticut residents, the company sought to expand its gravel quarry that exists in Plainville into adjoining woodlands owned by the New Britain water department. The proposed project included land that is part of the Shuttlemeadow Reservoir watershed, which is protected by a state law forbidding any commercial development.
The proposed expansion would have continued excavation on the property over the next 40 years, and the quarry would have had an effect—not only on New Britain land—but also on land in Southington and Plainville. Many private citizens in all three towns, as well as government officials, have gone on the record at various public hearings in opposition of the expansion.
“The most prudent course of action at this time would be withdrawal of the proposal from further consideration,” wrote Stewart, citing additional costs to the city, the time it would require, and the depth of opposition to the proposal.
The Southington Town Council originally supported the expansion plan, and in April 2017 former Town Manager Garry Brumback submitted a letter to state officials in favor of the project on behalf of the council. In August of that year, councilors rescinded the letter, saying that the town might not have had all the information at the time.
Over recent months, Southington residents and officials have voiced concerns about the project and its impact on Southington’s water supply.
Wall gave a presentation at the July 23 council meeting, just one meeting after Atty. Paul Zagorsky of the Connecticut Protect our Watershed committee gave a presentation of his own.
“The proposal would be to extend our quarry another 40 years to build a reservoir with the city’s property as well as our own property,” Wall said to the council. He added that the quarry, itself, was above the aquifer, and that there would be no impact to the Quinnipiac watershed, which includes Southington’s Crescent Lake area.
He also stated that Tilcon would donate four acres of open space for each acre mined. That would have meant 291 acres of donated open space land—79 acres to Southington, 41 acres to New Britain, and 171 acres to Plainville.
“We appreciate your willingness to give us the acreage, if we are so inclined to go along with it,” said minority chair Victoria Triano (R). “But there are other consequences, I feel, to go along with this strip mining project of yours. As I read over the environmental study, there are some very huge concerns.”
The city of New Britain hired Lenard Engineering, Inc. with grant money to conduct an environmental study on the land and the effect the expansion would have. Triano said the report noted direct mortality for all species, total habitat loss, and degradation to the areas adjacent to the quarry.
Dawn Miceli (D), vice chair of the council and also chair of the Open Space committee, commented the promise of open space sounded good at first glance, but “when you pull apart all the different layers, this is a terrible plan, and includes a detriment to so many things including wildlife, flora and fauna, and all the natural aesthetic of this community.”
The Southington Water Department played a large role in the conversation, following Wall’s presentation to the council with one of their own, and soon after, writing a letter to the Connecticut Water Planning Council and the Council on Environmental Quality.
“After review of the Lenard Report on the proposed quarry expansion, the SWD and Board of Water Commissioners cannot overstate their concern and belief that it may seriously impact the SWD water supply,” water board secretary and treasurer Robert Berkmoes read from a collaborative statement.
SWD noted past mining operations have shifted surface water runoff already. Crescent Lake, a small reservoir with a storage volume of 165 million gallons, is less than one half mile from the proposed expansion site. SWD notes concern of the potential effect to the lake.
They also noted great concern for SWD Well No. 9, situated about 1.5 miles from the Tilcon mining operations. Well No. 9 is responsible for 44 percent of SWD’s entire water supply.
“This is our future in Southington. This is a 40-year problem,” said Berkmoes. “We’ve got to be very, very careful, and look at every angle.”
To comment on this story or to comment on this story, contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.
For a copy of the Tilcon letter, click here: tilcon_letter_to_new_britain_mayor_erin_stewart