Aquarion withdraws controversial water diversion plan

The Aquarion Water Company withdrew a permit request Thursday morning that would have allowed the company to divert up to one million gallons of water per day from a Cannondale well.

The company cited discussions with residents, state and town officials, environmental organizations and other stakeholders as the main driver behind its decision.

“Over the past several months, Aquarion has held a dialogue with both community stakeholders and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) on the proposed diversion permit for our Cannondale well,” said Dan Lawrence, Aquarion’s Director of Engineering and Planning. “Given the feedback we’ve received and our ability to continue using our other water sources to ensure the reliable delivery of safe, clean, quality water to our customers, we will be withdrawing the permit application.”

The plan to divert water from a Cannondale well field the company built back in 1982 had caused an uproar among Norwalk River stakeholders since the permit application was submitted to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on Oct. 3.

Wilton First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said on behalf of the town she “is very pleased with Aquarion’s decision to withdraw their water diversion permit application.  We are encouraged by and expressed our support for their intention to build upon their current conservation efforts.

She thanked Wilton’s leadership team in questioning the application: Environmental Affairs Director Mike Conklin, Town Counsel Ira Bloom, special counsel Steve Studer and consultant Brian Blum. She also thanked the  Board of Selectmen for approving the necessary funding to support them.

Vanderslice also expressed appreciation to Mayor Rilling and his Norwalk staff, Trout Unlimited, Norwalk River Watershed Association, Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, Harbor Watch, Earthplace, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, residents of Wilton and surrounding towns, and state Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), “who provided thoughtful and informed commentary at the recent public informational meeting. Lastly, thank you to the officials at DEEP, particularly, Doug Hoskins, for agreeing to hold the meeting.

“Our combined efforts demonstrate that transparency and collaborative, fact-based advocacy lead to good outcomes.”

Louise Washer, president of the Norwalk River Watershed Association, heralded Aquarion’s decision as a victory for the public. She said none of this would have been possible without the hundreds of residents who turned out to oppose the diversion plan.

“I felt very unsure of how it would go in terms of dealing with this large water company, and I really appreciate their response. I’m just so happy that they listened to our concerns and are not doing this,” she said.

Peter Fazekas, the director of public relations for Aquarion, said the company will instead focus on using other Aquarion water sources to improve the area’s drought resiliency, while continuing to expand conservation efforts throughout the region.

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