Marconi: Clean water needs stronger protection

Clean drinking water and its protection is a concern First Selectman Rudy Marconi hopes to advance by building a regional and then statewide coalition to strengthen relevant state law.

“We need to think now, and act now, to protect the quality of our water,” Marconi said.

“…We need to limit the amount of development in our drinking water watersheds.”

Marconi said water problems elsewhere in the U.S. should be a warning to Connecticut to guard its watersheds and aquifers.

“We need to limit the amount of development in our drinking water watersheds,” he said.

“The news is not short on various parts of this country, whether the extreme drought that California experienced, or issues in Colorado, the midwest — we’re very fortunate here in Connecticut that we’re one of the few states that has yet to begin looking at the filtration of grey water for potable water.”

(Grey water is used household water — including water used in kitchens and for bathing, but excluding water from toilets).

Make a stand

Initially, Marconi’s plans to raise the issue through the Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WestCOG), an 18-town regional planning agency Ridgefield belongs to. He wants the organization to make a stand for stronger clean water protections in the 2018-23 revision of the state’s Plan of Conservation and Development, and through revision of state regulations.

“We have input in the state POCD, Plan of Conservation and Development, as well as the draft of drinking water regulations, and I have been working to try and modify … hopefully, the COG’s various 17 other members will agree with me,” Maroni said in an Aug. 14 interview.

And he hopes the Western Connecticut Council can get other regional planning agencies around the state to consider and embrace the issue, creating a statewide coalition of clean water advocates.

Eureka

Clean drinking water is a widely shared concern. But Marconi’s focus on how watersheds are addressed in the state Plan of Conservation and Development grows from the town’s long legal battle over the Bennett’s Pond property with would-be developer, Eureka V LLC.

Eureka purchased some 682 acres — 613 in northern Ridgefield — in 1998 and fought the town through a variety of courts, across more than a decade, over the amount of housing units that would be allowed there.

At one point in the long series of legal battles, the town appeared to have a victory as a judge upheld a Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision that denied any construction in areas considered part of the watershed. On appeal by Eureka, the courts ruled that denial of any development in the watershed was overreach by the town, and said a density up to one residential unit for every two acres should be allowed in watershed areas.

“I couldn’t figure out why,” Marconi said. “Recently, I re-read those decisions. It was clear the court looked at state POCD (Plan of Conservation and Development) and it clearly said one house for two acres is OK.”

With water scarcity becoming more and more of an concern across the country, Marconi felt better protecting watersheds should be addressed and state plan, and thought he’d ask the WestCOG towns to take that stand as a group.

“My concern is, when you allow any development like that in a watershed area, you’re beginning the process of degradation of our drinking water,” Marconi said..

And he doesn’t consider limiting land development to protect drinking water will be a high-cost economic trade-off. In the long run, it might prove a benefit.

“Water is the next oil,” Marconi said.

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