By Common Councilman Matt Miklave (D-District A)
NORWALK, Conn. – As we recognize Earth Day on April 22, this is a good week to think of our local Norwalk environment. While there are many pressing issues and plenty of opportunities to look for solutions to each of them, one in particular stands out in its timing and importance. The Meadow Street cleanup project involves a former owner and its consultant requesting an allowance for more pollution to remain in the ground than the state’s cleanup standards permit. We must begin a dialog about the future of this Meadow Street neighborhood and similar industrial sites, and not allow exceptions to the requirements for cleaning up these areas.
I have forwarded the following letter to Mr. Jeffrey Wilcox, environmental analyst in the Remediation Division of the Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse in the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. As citizens of Norwalk, we all need to speak out and let our elected officials know that we do not support this Waste Management remediation proposal. (Editor’s note – the deadline for public comment on this proposal has passed.)
Dear Mr. Wilcox:
I am an elected member of the Norwalk Common Council, the legislative body responsible for governing the City of Norwalk. I write with respect to the remediation proposal put forward by Waste Management and its consultant, regarding a piece of property which I believe is currently occupied by City Carting. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the April 4 public hearing on this topic due to legislative business (a previously scheduled meeting of the Common Council Planning Committee concerning the city’s capital budget, which coincidentally, as I will explain below, included the expenditure of significant sums of taxpayer funds as a result of environmental issues.)
I understand that the proposed remediation plan at the subject property involves primarily “capping” the contamination and leaving it for future generations to address. I believe the plan as outlined is fundamentally deficient and will end up costing federal, state and city taxpayers many times the value of any present economic benefit achieved by “capping” the contamination.
First, contamination will simply not “go away.” As we know so well from our experience with the Norwalk Police Department headquarters construction, contamination lasts decades. In the early 2001-2 time period, when the city was constructing the police department headquarters, the city spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars to remediate waste and contamination left by prior property owners decades earlier, long after those companies disappeared. If capped, at some point in time, that site will be developed and there remains a great risk our children or their children will pay the price for remediation. That cost will certainly be higher in the future than it is today.
Second, the property is situated very close to Long Island Sound and the oyster and shellfish beds which may be contaminated should the contamination migrate from its current location. (Mapped shellfish beds include the areas of Village Creek and Wilson Point, sites very close to the contamination.) Long Island Sound is vital to Norwalk’s economy and (I hope) holds the promise of great economic benefit in the future. Any risk to Norwalk’s economic future should be carefully balanced against the economic impact on a “for profit” company earning substantial sums from its business model and property transfer. We know that contamination does not stay in one place due to soil erosion, underground water tables, groundwater runoff and the like.
Third, recent storm activity shows that we can no longer count on the “100 year storm” being a storm which hits every 100 years. We know that weather patterns have changed and we know that the infrastructure created a few years ago is insufficient to withstand these changes. (Witness the fact that our fishing pier has been damaged or destroyed by storms four times in the last ten years, and Norwalk just approved the expenditure of $850,000 to fix the pier and seawall ONCE AGAIN.) Rising flood waters can easily overwhelm the containment measures currently planned.
Accordingly, I urge the State to require the site owner to REMOVE in an environmentally safe manner the contamination created or brought to the site. Basically, I think it is safe to say, the owners or the owners’ predecessors put it there, they should remove it!
In removing the contamination, it is imperative that the air quality, noise levels and traffic patterns of the neighborhood be protected. This means safeguards must be taken to make sure the people of South Norwalk do not further suffer from this property.
Council Member, District A