Monday was a good day for aquifers in central Connecticut.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection awarded $2.75 million in grants for aquifer study and protection and released a new aquifer-protection manual, DEEP announced in a press release last week.
Aquifers are an essential natural resource and a major source of public drinking water in Connecticut. More than 2.1 million state residents — half the population — rely at least in part on groundwater for their drinking water and a quarter of the population gets its drinking water from an aquifer-protection area in the state’s program.
Among the many items on the agenda in a ceremony held at DEEP’s headquarters in Hartford, the agency essentially redistributed money gained in a $2.75 million settlement of a lawsuit over contamination at the Old Southington Landfill.
“The health of our aquifers is critical to the well-being of our state and its residents. Half of the people in Connecticut rely, in some part, on aquifers for their drinking water,” DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty said in a press release issued last week. “Through our oversight of the state’s Aquifer Protection Program, DEEP is committed to working closely with our municipal partners, and others, to make certain we protect and preserve these valuable sources of water.”
The Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE) received $415,000 for a two-year project with the U.S. Geological Survey, the UConn Cooperative Extension and the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association that will develop and implement green infrastructure — examples include rain gardens and “blue” roofs — to increase what DEEP calls “groundwater recharge.”
The CFE study will concentrate on areas of Meriden, Wallingford, Cheshire and Southington, all of which are located in the Quinnipiac River Regional Basin, and CFE will employ an “integrated approach to public outreach and education” about groundwater and the many attendant issues and conservation techniques.
The bulk of the funds, though, went to the Town of Southington to purchase and preserve a 24-acre tract of open space about two miles north of the Old Southington Landfill at 102 Farmstead Road that lies adjacent to wetlands and the Quinnipiac River. The acquisition will help protect the integrity of about 15 million gallons of water a year that flow from this area to Southington’s underground aquifers.
Preservation of this land as open space will not only provide flood control along the river near a municipal well in Southington, but it will also help maintain a forested buffer along the waterway that includes wetlands, forested uplands and vernal pool habitats. The public will also be able to participate in “passive recreation” — i.e. walking and the like — at the site.
A New Blueprint for Protection
Later in the ceremony, a new aquifer-protection manual was released and reviewed with local officials.
“All of us are responsible for protecting the water resources of Connecticut. The aquifer protection manual being issued today is only the latest example of what we can do, and have done, by working together,” Attorney General George Jepsen said. “The manual is an important resource that will help to guide land-use decisions for years to come and protect the public’s interest in environmental quality.”
Connecticut’s Aquifer Protection Area Program is one of the first and most comprehensive programs of its kind in the nation. The program, which began in 2004, tries to be proactive in preventing pollution from reaching water supplies instead of reacting after the pollution has occurred. A prime way DEEP accomplishes this is through land management.
DEEP, municipalities, and water companies share protection responsibilities. DEEP is responsible for the overall program administration; the water companies, who own the wells, are required to map aquifer-protection areas according to DEEP requirements and subject to DEEP approval. Once mapped and approved, aquifer-protection areas are adopted by the towns. The municipalities appoint an existing board or commission to serve as the local Aquifer Protection Agency and adopt regulations to control high-risk land use activities that have the potential to contaminate ground water in these areas.
At the ceremony on Monday, DEEP also recognized several groups with a GreenCircle Awards for their efforts to protect aquifers. Since the DEP launched the awards in 1998, nearly 1,000 schools, institutions, civic organizations, businesses and individuals have been recognized for more than 1,425 projects that have made a difference in preserving natural resources and protecting the quality of the state’s air, water and lands.
Here are the award winners, according to the DEEP release:
Assistant Attorneys General John “Jack” Looney and Lori DiBella: Assisted with a $2.75 million NRD settlement and the corresponding competitive grant solicitation and grant selection process. Significant effort went above and beyond what was expected.
Assistant Attorneys General David Wrinn, Sharon Seligman, Scott Koschwitz, and retired Assistant Attorney General Patricia Horgan: Acting as the legal advisor, representative, advocate and training instructor for DEEP, have demonstrated a personal and a professional commitment to protecting and preserving the quality of water in our state with their efforts. Also have contributed significantly to the success of the Municipal Aquifer Protection Area Training Program, the Municipal Inland Wetland Commissioners Training Program and has consistently provided administrative and procedural guidance to both DEEP staff and municipal aquifer protection and inland wetlands commissioners.
Creative Services Group of Madison: Creative Services Group minimized environmental impact while creating and developing the newly published Connecticut Aquifer Protection Area Program Municipal Manual. The manual was printed locally on an indigo digital press, which consumes 25% less energy than previous press models and reduces oil waste and consumption by 50% through a built-in recycling system. The paper for the manual is recycled from 100% post-consumer waste and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified and was manufactured using 100% wind power.
Alexis Cherichetti, Senior Environmental Officer, City of Norwalk; Mark DeVoe, Director of Planning and Economic Development, Town of Plainville; John D. Pagini, Director of Community Development, Town of Bolton: These three individuals have demonstrated a personal and professional commitment to protecting and preserving the quality of groundwater in our state with their efforts to implement the Aquifer Protection Area Program. They have contributed significantly to the success of the state’s annual aquifer training program for municipal officials as leaders, as technical advisors, and as resources to their peers. Through their commitment to this program, Connecticut will better achieve its goal of protecting and improving the quality of Connecticut’s groundwater for the future.
For further information on aquifers in Connecticut, visit: www.ct.gov/deep/aquiferprotection