Bye Welcomes Committee Passage of Bill Requiring Independent Consumer Advocate For MDC
HB -6008 received a favorable vote from the Planning and Development Committee in the state legislature and will hopefully move on to consideration in the House of Representatives later this session. See: www.senatedems.ct.gov/bye-news/473-bye-170324#sthash.kaaH8WOR.vdIQkaC0.dpbs
The Metropolitan District Commission, which provides drinking water to 8 Hartford area municipalities, came under intense fire this past year. First, with its decision to offer water and clean water project charge discounts to multi-national California water bottler Niagara. Secondly, with its last minute demand for contingency funds from municipalities to avoid a damaged bond rating should the city of Hartford default on its ad valorem sewer payments.
The 29 member MDC board, comprised of both legislative appointees and commissioners appointed by its member towns, was criticized for its lack of communication with member town councils, and its lack of transparency with the public.
The consumer advocate, funded with $50,000/yr by the MDC, would be an attorney with experience in utility law and public advocacy. The position would provide a set of "eyes and ears" to the public on maters of consequence to the general public, both in member towns and in non-voting towns served by the MDC.
Sen. Beth Bye, Rep. Derek Slap, and Rep. David Baram all worked to forward the legislation out of committee. Save Our Water CT considers this a good first step in restoring public trust to the agency.
Will the public ever be allowed access to water planning information?
Thanks to Jon Lender, the secrecy surrounding water utility water supply plans is once again in the news. See; www.courant.com/politics/hc-lender-secret-water-20170313-column.html
published in Sunday March 19th in the Hartford Courant.
Water utilities are required to file supply plans every 8-10 years with the Department of Public Health, documenting what they estimate is their "safe yield" for water projected far into the future. The plans contain numerous details about where our water comes from and goes, drought triggers, and projections for future use. They also contain critical security information on their contingency plans, control systems, chemical storage locations, and other details that no one in the environmental community wishes disclosed. But the fears of terrorism involving the water supply system are now being used to withhold ALL details of water utility plans from the public or water planners. Analysis of our critical natural water resources, which may be increasingly under threat from climate change, is being removed from the pubic domain.
Negotiations have been ongoing since 2003 to develop a methodology for the water utilities, the Department of Public Health, and environmental water advocates to share this information in a way that both preserves critical infrastructure information and allows public access to planning information. One idea is to submit these plans in 2 forms: one closed to the public and another with agreed-upon public information. But each year talks have broken down leaving the plans essentially under lock and key.
HB 7221 in this year's legislature seeks to enact clear guidelines as to what water utility information IS actually critically secure and deserving of protection. That would allow the vast majority of the plan to be open to environmental planners and the public, without the lengthy fights that currently occur.
Val Rossetti of Save Our Water CT still has yet to see a single word of the MDC 2008 plan, requested back on March 1st of 2016. We're not yet holding our breath.
Public Hearings Monday March 13th 10:30 AM Legislative Office Building:
You may submit testimony by email until Thursday Feb. 2cd at 3 PM. Send email to:
Include the bill number and title in the subject line of your email.
Check this list of members of the environment committee: www.cga.ct.gov/env/
If your legislator is on the committee, please call him or her. Your voice is essential!
- A study bill (SB-753) is only a start, but is flawed and needs revision.
- We need to address the critical issues noted by SB-753 now, not leave the state open to more corporate water raids while a severe drought continues.
- We need drought protection so that our water is not sent out of state in bottles while we conserve.
- We need a permitting system for large water bottlers, so that we ensure that all of CT has enough water now and for the future- before giving it away to water bottling giants.
- We need a water rate structure that promotes conservation, not special discounts for large super-users which incentivizes over-use.
- Corporations profiting from Grade A CT water should pay their fair share to support clean water infrastructure, which residents have been doing for years.
Protect CT’s Water Security: Provide Oversight for Large Water Bottlers: A STUDY BILL IS NOT ENOUGH!
Bill to "study" Expanded Water Bottling will be the only "water bill" allowed to come up for a hearing. Powerful Opponents want to "study" water bottling, while leaving it without any oversight. While the drought continues, CT will still be open to corporate water raids.
A Letter to Our Legislators:
Last year we saw a multi-national water bottling company establish itself in our state with virtually no public input or state oversight. Niagara Bottling of California received local tax abatements and unprecedented discounts on water and sewer rates (Clean Water Project rates) on up to 1.8M gallons/day of Grade A municipal drinking water. No environmental review or state permitting was required. No expiration date on its claim to state waters was placed. While drought warnings were sent to much of the state asking residents to conserve, this corporation was preparing to ship millions of single-serve plastic water bottles out of the watershed and beyond state borders. To our dismay, our current state drought plans do not include mandatory restrictions on this large-scale extraction until long after residents are voluntarily cutting back and reservoirs are at dangerously low levels.
SB-753 recognizes critical issues confronting Connecticut’s water supplies and environment as major water bottlers move into our state. However, study alone is essentially a call to inaction for 2 more years. As such, SB-753 is flawed if left without revision. We need legislation NOW that provides sensible, reasonable oversight of any sizeable expansion of the bottled water industry:
- Protect the state’s waters during a drought: limit water bottling while watersheds are stressed and residents are conserving- it’s ALREADY happening.
- Require a permit for any large expansion of water bottling so we know there’s enough water for both our drinking needs and our environment- for now and for decades to come. Place a moratorium on major expansion of water bottling while an appropriate permit is developed.
- Ensure water rates are not incentivizing over-use of water: lowering rates for super-users contradicts the conservation ethic this natural resource requires.
- Support public clean water infrastructure by requiring corporations profiting from Grade A CT water to pay their fair share.
"For the first time in Connecticut's long running drought, the Metropolitan District has issued a drought advisory to its 400,000 water customers......"
just as the Niagara bottling plant is set to open.
After months of below normal precipitation, MDC reservoirs have now fallen to 75% of their capacity, triggering the first drought advisory for MDC's 8 member towns. Municipal governments in its service area are being asked to cut down on non-essential water use such as street cleaning, municipal watering, and the washing of town vehicles. Residents are not yet under water restrictions, but 5-10 Million gallons of extra water/day will be leaving the MDC reservoirs to aid New Britain. A long-standing agreement for the MDC to aid New Britain in case of a water supply emergency is now being activated for the first time in decades. That additional water draw may trigger residential restrictions next spring if significant rainfall does not arrive. That could happen as early as May, when the MDC's reservoirs could be down to 53% capacity.
The MDC- with the largest state reservoir (Barkhamsted)- has begun publically recognizing its value as an essential water reserve for less water-rich parts of our state. Though the state has often been viewed as one with a plentiful water supply, that concept has been drastically challenged this year. 83% of the state is now listed as being in severe or extreme drought.
How ironic that Niagara Bottling will being drawing water from the system for what has to be the most non-essential use of all: sending single-serve water bottles out of the MDC watershed! Unfortunately for state residents, Niagara's bottling operation will be immune from mandatory water restrictions until MDC reservoir's are at 10% of capacity! That's all the protection our current DPH drought policy provides us. There's no permit required for Niagara's water draw nor any time limitation, so their corporate profits will essentially be prioritized over municipal and residential uses. Time for a change in state water policy!
An important public hearing will be held on Tuesday Dec 20th at 9:30 AM at DEEP's 79 Elm St. offices. Up for public comment will be a proposed regulation concerning Water Diversion Exemptions, identified by Tracking Number: PR2016-053.
SaveOurWaterCT is in support of the proposed amendment to section 22a-377(b)-1 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies to eliminate the exemption for use of registered water throughout an Exclusive Service Area. Essentially, water utilitites that expand their ESAs "will no longer be exempt from environmental permitting when they move water into newly ballooning and merged exclusive service areas" (see Rivers Alliance: www.riversalliance.org/Topics/Streamflow.cfm#registrations ).
Public comments will be accepted at the hearing or online until 4:30 pm on Dec 20th. They can be made on line either via email (Corrine.Fitting@ct.gov) or through the eRegulations site at eregulations.ct.gov/eRegsPortal/Search/RMRView/PR2016-053. Click the "COMMENT NOW" button. Please reference "Proposed Regulation Concerning Water Diversion Exemptions; Tracking Number PR2016-053 in your subject line on any emails. SUPPORT THE PROPOSED REGULATION.
Additional information on the new regulation is available at DEEP's website: www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=4808&Q=588490&deepNav_GID=1511
Diversions are essentially withdrawals of water from streams, rivers, reservoirs, or well fields. In 1982-3 over 1800 were "grandfathered" in, representing over 75% of all water taken in the state. Newer "takings" require a DEEP permit in order to ensure there is a proper balance of water use for humans, agriculture, aquatic environment, recreation, and industry. Currently these grandfathered diversions contain more water than actually exists in certain watersheds. A way to review and wisely permit them is urgently needed as part of the state's water plan. This proposed regulation covers a tiny slice of the problem, but is an important way to begin to re-gain control of the process.
Save Our Water CT
Citizen advocates acting to protect and conserve Connecticut's public trust waters.