Date: Fri 18-Jun-1999
Panels Unanimously Approves Tough Aquifer Protection Rules
BY ANDREW GOROSKO
Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members have unanimously approved tougher
aquifer protection regulations intended to better safeguard the quality of
existing and potential underground drinking water supplies in the Pootatuck
Aquifer, the town's sole source aquifer.
After about five months of review and revisions, P&Z members June 9
unanimously approved the new regulations that greatly expand and more
explicitly state the rules the P&Z uses to protect groundwater quality in the
town's Aquifer Protection District (APD) which is centered over the Pootatuck
The APD, which was approved by the P&Z in 1981, contains the Pootatuck
Aquifer, an area of varying width which generally follows the course of the
Pootatuck River through town from its headwaters in the vicinity of the Monroe
border northward to Sandy Hook Center.
The proposed rules apply to "stratified drift" aquifers, or those such as the
Pootatuck Aquifer, in which subterranean water supplies are contained within
layered bands of sand, gravel and boulders.
The regulations seek to protect groundwater quality by prohibiting within the
APD land uses which can contaminate groundwater and by regulating other land
uses which may potentially contaminate or downgrade existing and potential
groundwater supplies. The aquifer is susceptible to contamination due to its
high porosity and shallow water table which is recharged mainly by
precipitation that sinks into it from the ground surface above.
P&Z Chairman Daniel Fogliano said, "I think we moved to some new regulations
that will work and are fairly straightforward."
"We need to protect that (water). We need drinkable water," he said.
Conservation Official C. Stephen Driver said "I think the P&Z should get all
kinds of accolades. This is the partnership the town needs between the
Conservation Commission and the P&Z," he said.
A joint committee of Conservation Commission and P&Z members developed the
aquifer protection regulations.
Under the new regulations, the Conservation Commission will make
recommendations to the P&Z on land uses proposed for the APD.
"There are a lot of communities that will be looking at this (set of aquifer
regulations) as a model," Mr Driver said. He termed the new rules "an
incredibly positive step for the town."
"I don't think this is going to restrict people from utilizing their
properties. They just have to be more sensitive" to aquifer protection
concerns, he said.
Permitted And Prohibited
Permitted uses in the APD include single family dwellings situated on two or
more acres; open space land for passive recreation; managed forest land, and
wells and related equipment for providing a public water supply.
The P&Z lists many prohibited uses in the APD. These include: sanitary
landfills, septic lagoons, sewage treatment plants, waste transfer stations,
and printing and publishing establishments which involve the use of
acid/bases, heavy metal wastes, solvents, toxic wastes and solvent-based inks.
Also prohibited are: public garages; filling stations; car washes; and
multiple family housing, adult congregate living facilities or assisted living
facilities with a density of more than one unit per two acres, except when
connected to public sewers.
Other land uses prohibited in the APD include: road salt storage; kennels,
except when connected to public sewers and public water supplies; the
manufacturing, storage, transport, processing or disposal of hazardous
materials or waste; the mining or removal of sand and gravel; the underground
storage of hazardous materials including fuel oil and petroleum; dry cleaning
establishments with on-site cleaning operations; hotels and motels, except
when connected to public sewers and public water; the outdoor storage of any
commercial vehicles or construction equipment; the maintenance of any
commercial vehicles or construction equipment; the maintenance of public
utility service vehicles or the outdoor storage of public utility vehicles;
the classification and smelting of non-ferrous metals; medical or dental
offices; veterinary hospitals; beauty and nail salons; funeral parlors; and
research or medical laboratories, except when connected to public sewers and
public water; and single-family dwellings that have less than two acres per
land, except when connected to public sewers.
If the P&Z finds that a proposed land use in the APD has the potential to
substantially adversely affect groundwater quality or the application doesn't
meet the standards set forth in the aquifer regulations, the P&Z would reject
On receiving an application, the P&Z will refer it to the Conservation
Commission, which will evaluate the proposed activity and review its impact on
groundwater resources as an agent for the P&Z. The Conservation Commission
will make a recommendation to the P&Z on the application within 35 days. If
the Conservation Commission finds the proposed activity will substantially
adversely affect the aquifer, the P&Z would be required to muster four
positive votes out of five votes to approve a special exception to the zoning
Every application to the P&Z for a land use in the APD will require an aquifer
impact assessment prepared by a professional with expertise in ground water
science. The new aquifer regulations detail the requirements of such a
The regulations also specify certain minimum standards for storm water
management, floor drains, pesticide and fertilizer use, and the manufacture
and storage of hazardous materials.
The P&Z conducted public hearings on the aquifer regulations in March and
Lawyers for developers, builders and businessmen voiced concerns that the
proposed revisions are too strict and would create too many business
prohibitions in the APD.
Some residents strongly endorsed the proposed rule changes and called for
their swift passage by the P&Z, noting the environmental benefits of such
P&Z member Michael Osborne has explained that the proposed strengthened
aquifer protection regulations come in response to local groundwater pollution
problems. The new aquifer regulations take effect June 21.