Aquarion’s application to withdraw up to 1 million gallons of water per day from Wilton’s aquifer and the Norwalk River was met with concerns and questions for the future.
On Tuesday night, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) held a meeting to listen to community feedback on the application. Wilton Library’s Brubeck room was standing room only as town officials, state representatives and residents came out to voice their opinions.
Aquarion’s Director of Engineering and Planning Dan Lawrence presented the company’s reasons why it wants to begin pumping water from Wilton to serve customers locally and in other communities.
“Having a local source in Wilton provides an opportunity for resiliency as an alternate source,” Lawrence said. “It also provides an opportunity to think about drought.”
The applicant drew from studies done by the company in 1983 and 2013 to see the impact of water withdrawal on the surrounding ecosystem. According to Lawrence, all of the private wells in the surrounding 1,500-foot radius from Aquarion’s well draw water from below the surface.
The water drawn by Aquarion will be used to serve customers in the Norwalk basin, he said. This will allow any water it removes to stay in the immediate region. Lawrence said a mitigation plan has been formed to address any impacts on neighboring wells and the surrounding ecology.
“I think it’s important to protect various resources,” he said. “That’s why we’re here tonight. To work together to solve a problem.”
Lawrence added Aquarion has three goals: maintaining vernal pools to protect breeding cycles of species, maintaining floodplain and wetland groundwater to support the existing plant community, and maintaining Norwalk River flow to provide a habitat for trout.
Residents and town officials both voiced their concern for the Norwalk River, which was described as one of the most important assets for both the state and Wilton. State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) said water can be expensive to transport and takes a lot of infrastructure.
“We are in an area where there is a preponderance of private wells,” she said, adding people have legitimate reasons to ask questions.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said the Norwalk River is a major asset for Wilton. She said the town has made a commitment of resources to this project and has hired an external consultant.
“I used to live in the Cannondale area,” she said. “This is pretty personal to me having lived in that area.”
Wilton’s Director of Environmental Affairs Mike Conklin said the application adversely affects the surrounding environment. Conklin said he was also concerned with how long ago the data was collected.
“It’s common knowledge in the scientific community that climate change is happening in our area at rates faster than previously believed,” he said. “We are getting many more large storm events and we’re seeing this more frequently.”
Brian Blum, the consultant hired by Wilton, said he was concerned that Aquarion looks to remove from the watershed more than what enters the watershed.
“Aquarion has determined that 27 inches infiltrates the ground ... I believe that is an overly favorable estimate,” Blum said. “I do not believe 27 inches a year necessarily gets into the ground. I think it’s less.”
He added the water balance is an important concern as well as how much water falls to the ground and is brought up from the well.
Norwalk River Watershed Association President Louise Washer warned the Norwalk River is impaired. She said her group is working together to improve water quality, but Aquarion’s plan to remove clean water from the river is problematic.
“Dilution is the solution to our pollution,” Washer said. “We can’t lose this water and we are opposed.”