Timeline established for Cannondale water diversion application

The town of Wilton is in the “fact gathering” phase of Aquarion’s application for a water diversion permit.

At a special Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Oct. 22, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice explained that Aquarion has submitted an application with the state to remove one million gallons of water per day from a well in Cannondale at 3 Cannon Road, next to the ABC Boy’s House, where there is a significant aquifer.

“This is a great matter of concern for myself, town employees that are involved, neighbors, and residents,” Vanderslice told the board.

She said town staff and town counsel are giving full attention to the matter. “It is critical we have a full understanding of the situation,” she said.

To that end, she said the town is in the first phase of fact gathering. The town has engaged the services of attorney Stephen Studor, with the law firm Berchem Moses, who has experience with water diversion applications. She said the town is also in the process of engaging environmental and engineering experts.

A memorandum from Studor discussing the application and the state’s timeline can be found on wiltonct.org under News & Announcements. Vanderslice said more information will be posted there as it becomes available.

The memorandum says the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has 120 days to complete its review of the application. Once completed, DEEP must notify the Wilton first selectwoman and the chairmen of the Conservation Commission and Inland Wetlands Commission that the application is complete.

DEEP must hold a public hearing on the application, but has the right to waive that requirement, Vanderslice said. If DEEP decides to waive the public hearing, it must publish a notice of its decision. If a petition signed by at least 25 people requesting a public hearing is received by DEEP within 30 days of the publication notice, a public hearing must be held.

Vanderslice said, typically, as part of that hearing process, there would be a meeting in Wilton in the evening giving residents a fair opportunity to attend and comment. There would also be other hearings in Hartford which she and the conservation and wetlands commissions would attend as ex officio parties with full participation rights.

The hearing officer would have 120 days from the close of the hearing to render a decision. If no decision is issued in that timeframe, the application is deemed granted, she said.

She said the good news is the town and public have time to prepare appropriate submittals and gather experts and like-minded people. “If the state does not elect to hold a hearing, we can force a hearing,” she said.

She said town officials will be reaching out to residents to gather more information. She is encouraging residents to talk about the issue.

Vanderslice said she will be attending some upcoming meetings about the application and will report back to the board when she has more facts.

During public comment, Patrice Gillespie of Silver Spring Road asked about the ultimate planned destination for the water that is being diverted. “We don't know the answer to that right now,” Vanderslice said.

Peter Fazekas, Aquarion’s public relations director, has previously said that after experiencing “the worst drought since the 1960s in 2016,” Aquarion has been reviewing “all additional water resources available in [the] region.

According to Aquarion’s diversion of water for consumptive use permit, prepared in October 2018 by Shelton-based engineering professional services firm WSP USA, up to one million gallons of water would be pumped from the Cannondale well each day in order to “augment the Greater Bridgeport System — that includes Wilton — which is being relied upon to meet supply deficits in the southwest Fairfield County service area, as well as the Ridgefield service area.”

— Kendra Baker contributed to this story.