Ridgefield hires attorneys to represent town in environmental lawsuit filed by Save the Sound

The Norwalk River flows through Ridgefield.

The Norwalk River flows through Ridgefield.

Joe Dolen / Contributed photo

RIDGEFIELD — The town has enlisted the attorneys of Pullman & Comely, LLC, to represent it in federal court after a lawsuit accused the municipality of violating state and federal laws relative to properly keeping track of its stormwater systems.

The lawsuit was one of four filed by the environmental advocacy group Save the Sound in December. The group alleges that the towns of Ridgefield, Redding, Middletown and Burlington failed to file required paperwork regarding their stormwater systems with state regulators over the past three years.

Those reports — which require municipal officials to map and inventory stormwater systems, identify sources of harmful discharges and detail for regulators how they are working to implement best practices — are vital to efforts to reduce stormwater pollution and improve water quality, the lawsuits state.

The towns contacted by the group, in part, were chosen because their stormwater systems affected rivers and streams on the state’s list of impaired bodies of water, according to Bill Lucey, the Long Island Soundkeeper at Save the Sound.

The lawsuits mention nearly a dozen bodies of water affected by the towns’ stormwater systems, including the Norwalk River, which runs through Ridgefield and eventually into the Long Island Sound.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi said he was “absolutely shocked” when the lawsuit came out considering the “countless” efforts the town has taken over the years to address water quality and environmental issues locally.

The most recent example is a $55 million investment to upgrade sewer lines and a treatment plant, which was met with financial support from the state Department of Environmental Energy and Protection not too long after the Save the Sound lawsuits were filed.

In an earlier interview, Marconi said the town engineer who had been in charge of filing annual stormwater reports retired in 2018. The position, while advertised, has still not been filled.

Ridgefield has contracted Tighe & Bond in the interim to manage some of the paperwork. The firm will also conduct a drainage study of the town, Marconi said.

He also pointed to “dedicated efforts” to mitigate nutrient loading at Mamanasco Lake and new zoning regulations relative to stormwater.

“We didn’t file paperwork, (but) did you look at what we’re doing for the environment?,” Marconi posed. “I agree that anyone in violation should be reviewed … (but) there should be an effort to … work together.”

Although Chris Kelly, an attorney for Save the Sound, could not comment on the status of ongoing negotiations, he said the group intends to resolve the lawsuit “collaboratively.”

Ridgefield must provide an answer to the complaint by March 11, he added.

The lawsuits, which seek to force the municipalities into compliance with the Clean Water Act and state permitting regulations, were each filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.