Protecting the town\u2019s aquifers \u2014 Ridgefielders\u2019 future drinking water \u2014 is a job town officials all want done and done well. There\u2019s been some debate about what town agency should do the work.\u201cThat\u2019s all we want to know: Who\u2019s going to protect the aquifers best?\u201d Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark said. \u201cAnd, hopefully they\u2019ll be working together to keep our aquifers clean and safe.\u201dThe selectmen decided at their May 8 meeting that the duties of the Aquifer Protection Agency should stay with the Planning and Zoning Commission, and not be transferred to the new separate Inland Wetlands Board that will be created next fall. But the selectmen are still having the town ordinance that addresses the issue rewritten, giving the new separate wetlands board an advisory role of making "non-binding recommendations" on matters that come before the P&Z commission acting as the Aquifer Protection Agency.\u00a0 The rewritten ordinance \u2014which town attorneys will work on \u2014 is scheduled to come before an Aug. 21 public hearing for discussion and a Sept. 4 town meeting for a voters . "We're talking about having it rest with the P&Z \u2014 but, any application, they get a non-binding recommendation from the Inland Wetlands Board," First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.The issue has come up in the wake of last fall\u2019s vote to split the combined Planning and Zoning Commission and Inland Wetlands Board into two agencies \u2014 a separation which will take place after members of a separate wetlands board are elected in November. The current combined board and commission also functions as the town\u2019s Aquifer Protection Agency. The debate is: After the split, should the aquifer protection duties stay with the Planning and Zoning Commission, or go with the new independent Inland Wetlands Board?Discussion at the previous April 17 selectmen\u2019s meeting turned in part on the language of the 1990 ordinance assigning aquifer protection duties to the combined zoning and wetlands agency. Section 19-37 of the town ordinances says, in part: \u201caquifer protection rights, duties and obligations are assigned to the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission in their capacity as the Inland Wetlands Board.\u201dThe issue had been brought to the selectmen\u2019s attention by Rebecca Mucchetti, chairwoman of the combined Planning and Zoning Commission and Inland Wetlands Board.\u201cFor a variety of reasons, including but not limited to experience with implementing the aquifer protection regulations, having the aquifer protection district located on the zoning map, and having the aquifer protection standards located within the zoning regulations ... the commission is submitting to you their recommendation that the aquifer protection rights and obligations Sec. 19-37 be modified to have the Planning and Zoning Commission the responsible authority,\u201d Mucchetti wrote to the selectmen.Mucchetti told the selectmen the language of the ordinance was clear enough.\u201cIt does not give authority to the Inland Wetlands Board,\u201d Mucchetti said. \u201cIt gives it to the Planning and Zoning Commission in their capacity as the Inland Wetlands Board.\u201dConservation viewThe Conservation Commission had championed the separation of wetlands duties from planning and zoning, and conservation member Jack Kace spoke up in favor of having aquifer protection responsibilities go with the wetlands board.\u201cThey\u2019re interconnected. In our minds the two boards are very analogous \u2014 inland wetlands and aquifer protection,\u201d Kace said at the April 17 meeting. \u201c... In our minds there\u2019s no difference between Inland Wetlands Board and the Aquifer Protection Agency. They still need to protect our water.\u201cThe Inland Wetlands Board is a board established to protect inland wetlands from improper land use,\u201d Kace said. \u201cIt seems a check and balance on planning and zoning.\u201dThis was disputed by Planning and Zoning Commission member John Katz.\u201cInland wetlands boards have not been appointed or thought of as a check and balance to planning and zoning,\u201d he said.Kace followed up with April 29 letter to the selectmen.\u201cI was asked at the BOS meeting what would be different if the APA were combined with the IWB. Better understanding of the regulations and their use is the main thing. The skills set required for the APA overlap nicely with the skill sets needed for the IWB.\u201cThe PZ is a very hard-working commission, meeting almost every week, generating pages of meeting minutes. But their time available for the APA is limited and apparently so is their interest,\u201d he added.\u201cThe APA currently meets only four times per year. And the APA meeting minutes for 2018 show that the length of the meetings was: April, one minute; June, five minutes; September, three minutes; and December, one minute...\u201cGoing forward, we need an APA that will review all new\/modified land uses for businesses or home occupations that are in a state or local aquifer protection zones. New businesses and home occupations might not even be aware that they are in an aquifer protection zone or that products that they use could present a risk to drinking water. They need to be informed. This is the best way to assure that there is no unreasonable risk to our aquifers and drinking water.\u201dMucchetti said that Aquifer Protection Areas \u2014 or \u201cwellhead protection areas\u201d \u2014 are designed to \u201cminimize potential contamination of the well field\u201d with specific land use regulations.\u201cThe regulation is focused on the use and discharge of hazardous materials,\u201d she said.In her letter to the selectmen, Mucchetti cited research by the commission\u2019s staff.\u201cLand use regulations are established in those areas to minimize the potential for contamination of the well field,\u201d the staff report says. \u201cThe regulations restrict development of certain new land use activities that use, store, handle, or dispose of hazardous materials and requires existing regulated land uses to register and follow best management practices...\u201cMajor responsibilities of municipalities containing Aquifer Protection Areas are:Appointing an existing commission to act as the APA;Delineating the aquifer protection area boundary on the town zoning map;Identifying and inventorying potentially regulated activities in the area;Adopting\/amending local aquifer protection area regulations consistent with state regulations;Registering regulated businesses and facilities within the aquifer protection area;Educating the public about the importance of protecting groundwater.\u201dMucchetti said the research by the commission\u2019s staff had found that of the 79 Connecticut towns with aquifer protection agencies, 63 of them shared duties with the Planning and Zoning Commission, while 12 were combined with Inland Wetlands Boards and four were part of Conservation Commissions or Water Pollution Control Authorities in their towns.First Selectman Marconi said that threats to aquifers were wide-ranging \u2014 from old underground oil tanks at homes and businesses to the the use of salt on roads in winter.\u201cRegardless of what way you go,\u201d Mucchetti told the selectmen, \u201cwe believe the ordinance needs to be modified.\u201dCharter commissionIn a May 1 letter to the selectmen, Charter Revision Commission chairman Jonathan Seem said the five-member charter commission majority who\u2019d voted to separate the two boards felt the aquifer protection tasks should go to the wetlands board.\u201cWe believe that the newly elected Inland Wetlands Board (IWB) should serve as the Aquifer Protection Agency (APA) upon their election in November.,\u201d Seem wrote. \u201cAs you know, the APA and its functions are not mentioned in the Town Charter, and the issue of the APA was not raised at any time during our discussions, public hearings, or deliberations regarding the separation of the IWB from the Planning & Zoning Commission.\u201cThe APA is included in Town Ordinance 19-37 which states that \u201cpursuant to Public Act No. 89-305, \u00a7 8, all aquifer protection rights, duties, and obligations as set forth in Public Act No. 89-305 are herewith assigned to the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission in their capacity as the Inland Wetlands Board\u201d (emphasis added). Based on that language alone, it seems clear that the APA responsibilities and duties should stay with the IWB upon its election in November...\u201cIndeed, had the issue been brought to our attention, we would have specifically incorporated aquifer protection in the new IWB's powers.\u201dThe selectmen decided they would discuss the issue at a future meeting, but did not set a date.\u201cIt\u2019s a good homework assignment for us,\u201d First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.The selectmen did say they\u2019d try to have the discussion \u201cin advance of the caucuses\u201d in July that will nominate party slates for the November election, since they\u2019ll be nominating people to run for the new separate Inland Wetlands Board, and also the Planning and Zoning Commission, and it might help people making those decisions to know which board will be handling aquifer protection.\u201cIt may affect how people are voting on specific members,\u201d Selectman Steve Zemo said.Any change to the ordinance would likely be proposed by the selectmen, reviewed by the town attorneys, and put before voters at a town meeting \u2014 possibly the quarterly town meeting planned for June 19.