Date: Fri 18-Jun-1999

Date: Fri 18-Jun-1999

Publication: Bee

Author: ANDYG

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Panels Unanimously Approves Tough Aquifer Protection Rules


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.

Review Process

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

the application.

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.

Public Hearings

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.