On a warm, slightly overcast Sunday afternoon last August 8, boaters near the Salmon River boat launch on the Connecticut River in East Haddam noticed a personal watercraft drifting without a rider. Less than an hour later, state environmental police recovered a man’s body floating nearby in a no-wake zone. Stephen Fabian, 59, of Moodus, had fallen off the watercraft and drowned. State environmental officials said his life jacket was ill-fitting and had slid up around his head, and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) reported that his blood-alcohol level was well over the legal intoxication limit. “The way he died was tragic,” his best friend, Dana Pitts of Westbrook, said.
The call came into the Lisbon fire department at 3:07 p.m. on Sept. 9: A vehicle was ablaze at a home on Bundy Hill Road. By the time the fire truck reached the scene, the flames had spread from the car to the side of the home and were moving rapidly. Firefighters immediately began spraying a fire suppression foam containing hazardous chemicals known as PFAS and had the blaze out within minutes. The homeowners were warned not to use or drink their well water, fearing the shallow well was likely contaminated by the toxic foam.
There are 27 facilities in Connecticut that use such large quantities of hazardous chemicals that they are required to submit disaster response plans to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. About 170,000 people—roughly 5 percent of the state’s population—live within a mile of these facilities, risking exposure to a leak, explosion or adverse health effects. Low-income people and children of color under the age of 12 are more likely than their white counterparts to live in these “fenceline” communities, according to a report by the Center for Effective Government. In its report “Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards,” the center examined more than 12,500 facilities in 50 states, grading states based on the “disparities faced” by people living adjacent to or near these facilities. The center reported that children of color under age 12 living in the state were 2.2 times more likely than white children to live within a mile of one of these facilities. In many instances, residents are unaware of the dangers just blocks from their homes, the report said.
Nearly half of the 60 companies that are allowed to discharge wastewater directly into Connecticut’s rivers, brooks and other bodies of water exceeded the amounts of toxic metals or other pollutants that their permits allowed over the last three years, a C-HIT analysis of federal data shows. Despite the violations, the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) fined only two of the 29 companies found to be in noncompliance with their permits—a record that state environmental advocates called alarming, but that the agency said is justified. The 29 companies discharged excessive amounts of pollutants during at least one three-month period from October 2013 to September 2016. At least 19 companies exceeded by more than 100 percent the amounts they were allowed to discharge, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data. The data also show that 23 of the 60 companies were found in noncompliance with terms of their permits for at least half of the three years—for reasons ranging from excessive discharges to submitting late discharge reports.
Starting July 1, Connecticut retailers will charge customers a 75-cent surcharge when they buy a gallon of paint, and in exchange, they’ll be able to drop off most unwanted household paint for recycling at participating paint retailers. While customers won’t get their deposit back like with the bottle bill, the surcharge is intended to cover the cost of safely recycling paint and paint cans. It’s all part of the state’s efforts to reduce waste, increase recycling and help municipalities save money. It will also cut emissions of toxic paint fumes, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), by 32 percent statewide, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. This change is the result of Connecticut’s extended producer responsibility (EPR) strategy.
Two decades after New Haven’s English Station power plant stopped producing energy for United Illuminating, state officials have ordered the owners to conduct a massive clean-up of the property, which is contaminated with hazardous PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. “English Station has been a potential source of pollution to Fair Haven and the waters of the state for too long. It must be cleaned up by all those responsible for its present condition,’’ said Attorney General George Jepsen, whose office is working with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The administrative order announced Thursday requires that the current and previous owners of the plant make a full investigation of the contamination on, and emanating from, the site; submit a remediation plan for DEEP approval that is in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations; and then remediate the site in accordance with the approved plan. The property, on the Mill River, contains the former electric-generating plant and a warehouse. The parties named in the order include the current owners, Asnat Realty, LLC of Bayside, N.Y. and Evergreen Power, LLC, of Wilmington, Md., as well as Quinnipiac Energy, LLC; Grant Mackay Demolition; and the United Illuminating Company, which previously owned the site. The plant is shut down, and access to the property has been limited, pending submission of a formal plan to clean up extensive contamination by PCBs, a known carcinogen, as well as heavy metals and other contaminants.