The state is backing off its proposal to impose strict new requirements on local governments in an effort to get them to reduce pollution through stormwater runoff.
Earlier this month, local elected officials complained loudly to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection about the “unfunded mandate” the new regulations would impose on municipalities. It would require them to increase their local budgets to do a better job at making sure catch basins are cleaned and streets are swept.
Late last week, the DEEP said it is aware of the municipalities’ struggles and is working on coming up with a compromise.
DEEP officials said they are already discussing with local leaders changes to language now in the draft permit and will circulate a revised version by January 26.
The revised version of the permit language is expected to include changes in various requirements, including street sweeping, cleaning of catch basins, management of fallen leaves, and water quality monitoring of storm water discharges.
The original draft of the permit would require cities like Danbury to sweep their streets eight times a year, according to Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. Other more rural towns like Killingworth would be required to institute leaf pickup.
“Have you been to Killingworth? We’re pretty much one big forest,” Killingworth First Selectwoman Catherine Iino said at a press conference earlier this month as she tried to explain what she felt to be the absurdity of the situation.
On the other side of the argument is the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. Roger Reynolds, legal director for the organization, has said he doesn’t believe making sure pollutants stay out of Connecticut’s waterways is an unfunded mandate. He said the permit doesn’t go far enough in making sure pollutants stay out of the water. He pointed out that managing stormwater runoff is a federal mandate under the Clean Water Act. Local elected officials complain that the state is trying to go further than the federal government requires.
Oswald Inglese, director of Water Permitting and Enforcement, said that while the DEEP considers the ability of cities and towns to meet new requirements, it also has an obligation to move forward with improvements to the management of storm water because of the toll it takes on the quality of the state’s environment and waters.
“Storm water carries contaminants into our lakes, rivers, streams, and Long Island Sound — the water bodies that make Connecticut a special place to live and the places where we all want to enjoy swimming, fishing, and boating,” Inglese said. “We must take steps to reduce the level of contamination discharged into our water from storm water systems.”
A conference to discuss the status of the permit will be held on Feb. 5 and it will include officials from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, Council of Small Towns, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and the DEEP.