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QRWA Warns of Impacts on Water and Wetlands by AES Power Plant

4/2/1999

Update: On Tuesday, April 27, the CT Siting Council made a tentative determination deny AES ‘s application, citing use of excessive quantities of potentially potable water, as the primary grounds for its decision.
Press Release distributed on  April 2, 1999
Contact: Sigrun Gadwa (203 271-1949) or Mary Mushinsky (203 237-2237) 203 269-8378

The Quinnipiac River Watershed Association, as an intervening party, opposes the proposal by AES, before the CT Siting Council to construct a 720 megawatt power plant in Southington. The site, near Interstate 84, and west of Queen Street, is only 200 feet from the Quinnipiac River.  The group testified before the Siting Council regarding their concerns about water use and wetlands impacts, which have received little public attention to date.

After careful review, QRWA board members voted in February to oppose the AES plant for several reasons.   The organization’s primary concern is that close to 4 million gallons per day of water would be used to cool the Southington AES plant, mostly going up as steam.  This would be potentially potable water drawn from the New Britain system.  The primary source would be Wolcott reservoir, in the Quinnipiac watershed.  Roaring Brook, downstream of  this reservoir, is already severely impaired by insufficient flows, as are outlet streams from other New Britain system reservoirs.

QRWA board member and Southington resident, Steve Theriault, said “The river’s water is already over-allocated. Use of potable water seems imprudent, especially considering increasing rates of area well failures and bacterial contamination.”  At the Siting Council Public Hearing, the Connecticut Rivers Alliance and other rivers groups pointed out that the regional water supply plan developed by the WUCC (Water Utility Coordinating Committee) is 10 years out of date. 
 
 QRWA’s staff scientist, Sigrun Gadwa is concerned that the AES proposal involves considerable wetlands and wildlife impacts, and contamination risks.  “The Quinnipiac River and its flood plain cuts across this 74 acre property. Thirty-six acres are wetlands, and much of the rest is borderline wetlands with a high spring water table,” Gadwa said. “The river, nearby wetlands, and groundwater are at risk from leaks from the 1.8 million gallon back-up petroleum distillate fuel tank.  Spills can occur during handling and transport of fuel  (up to 50 trucks per day in periods of natural gas shortage) and the other assorted chemicals necessary for plant operation.”

AES plans to fill or clear-cut 2.8 acres of wetlands and 3.5 acres of town-regulated wetland buffer, and to fill 7,200 cubic yards of flood plain.  QRWA testified that the storm water management system insufficiently  treats runoff from more than eight acres of buildings and paved surfaces, before it reaches wetlands and then the river.    QRWA objected to compensatory "mitigation" plans to "create" replacement wetlands by expanding and connecting existing vernal (seasonally flooded) pools.  These are sensitive amphibian-breeding areas, which should be left undisturbed, the group said. An area slated for wetland creation supports State-Listed Species of Special Concern, including eastern box turtle, reports local naturalist, Tom Bradley.   AES will excavate upland habitat along the river to replace lost flood plain. QRWA “River Adopters”, who are local residents, report that wildlife is abundant and includes bobcat, river otter, deer, and a variety of herons, songbirds, frogs, and salamanders.  Plant life includes colorful wild flowers like cardinal flower, bottle gentian, and blue vervain.  Gadwa noted that QRWA has opposed previous attempts to develop this property, which  failed due to wetlands impacts.

QRWA Executive Director, Mary Mushinsky said “This site along the Quinnipiac River has great potential for canoeing, hiking, and nature study – an open space oasis, surrounded by residential and commercial areas.” Mushinsky added “It is readily accessible, bordered by an abandoned rail line, that was recently purchased by CTDEP for recreation along the river.  The project will remove part of an old elevated trolley line. This is a wake-up case reminding us that there are many demands on the river corridor. For this project, at  this particular site, demands on the public resources (wetlands impacts and water use) outweigh the public benefit”.

The public can send comments to The Connecticut Siting Council regarding the proposed AES power generating plant in Southington until April 14th,  at 10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051, or Fax them (860 827-2950), regarding the Application of AES, LLC  (Docket 191) for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need.


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