PA 07-85—sHB 7121

Environment Committee

Planning and Development Committee

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE AQUIFER PROTECTION AREA PROGRAM

SUMMARY: This act specifies when public and private water companies must submit maps of new well fields to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), amends aquifer protection agencies' hearing and decision schedules, authorizes municipalities to fine people who violate municipal aquifer regulations, and makes minor changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2007

MAPPING REQUIREMENTS

An aquifer is a geologic formation which provides water to wells and springs. Water flows to wells from “contribution” areas, and to contribution areas from “recharge” areas. The law requires public and private water companies to map contribution and recharge areas to two different standards: level B (initial mapping) and level A (more precise mapping). The act requires a water company to map contribution and recharge areas for new, unmapped well fields serving 1,000 or more people to (1) level B standards no later than one year, and (2) level A standards no later than three years, after receiving a water diversion permit.

Under prior law, a water company serving more than 10,000 people (large water company) and those serving between 1,000 and 10,000 people (small water company) had to map the contribution and recharge areas they identified as future water supply sources to level B standards two years after the public health commissioner approved their coordinated water system plans. The act instead requires them to map to level B standards within two years after the DEP commissioner requests such mapping. It eliminates requirements that large and small water companies map to level A standards, four years and five years, respectively, after approval of their water system plans. As under existing law, the DEP commissioner must approve the aquifer maps.

HEARING AND NOTICE REQUIREMENTS

By law, an aquifer protection agency regulates certain activities (regulated activities) that occur within aquifer boundaries (see BACKGROUND).

Prior law set specific deadline and notice requirements for applications to conduct these regulated activities in an aquifer protection area. The act replaces these requirements with the notice and hearing requirements the law applies to zoning commissions, planning and zoning commissions, zoning boards of appeals, and inland wetlands agencies. But it retains a requirement that the aquifer protection agency notify affected water companies of a hearing at least 10 days before it takes place. As under prior law, this notice must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.

By law, an aquifer protection agency may hold a public hearing on an application to conduct a regulated activity. Prior law required the agency to (1) hold the hearing no later than 65 days after receiving the application, (2) complete the hearing within 45 days, and (3) act on the application no later than 35 days after the end of the hearing. Under the act, the agency has the same 65-day period from receiving the application to hold the hearing, but must complete it within 35 days and issue a decision no later than 65 days after the hearing ends. The act therefore extends the period between the start of the hearing and release of a decision by 20 days.

By law, zoning commissions, zoning boards of appeals, planning and zoning commissions, and inland wetlands agencies must notify the clerks of adjoining towns about any applications, petitions, appeals, requests, or plans concerning projects within 500 feet of the adjoining town, or that would affect the adjoining town in certain other ways. The act applies these requirements to aquifer protection agencies.

MUNICIPAL FINES

The act authorizes a municipality to establish, by ordinance, fines of up to $1,000 for violating its aquifer protection regulations. A police officer or other person authorized by the municipality's chief executive may issue a citation to anyone violating the regulations. A municipality that adopts such an ordinance must also adopt a hearing procedure. Any fines collected must be deposited in the municipality's general fund or a special fund it designates. But the fine cannot be imposed against the state or any state employee acting within the scope of his or her employment.

The act specifies that establishment of this ordinance, imposition of fines, and issuance of citations do not apply to agricultural uses employing best management practices (see BACKGROUND). By law, any person engaged in agriculture on land in an aquifer protection area (1) whose annual gross sales from agricultural products during the preceding calendar year were at least $2,500, and (2) who submits to DEP a farm resources management plan, is not conducting a regulated activity (CGS 22a-354m).

DEP COMMISSIONER'S AUTHORITY AND POWERS

By law, the DEP commissioner has sole authority to grant, deny, limit, or modify, according to regulation, a permit for any regulated activity in an aquifer protection area proposed by anyone to whom she has issued an individual permit (1) under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) or state pollution discharge system or (2) for a treatment, storage, or disposal facility, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The act specifies that the commissioner must have issued the individual permit for the site proposed for the regulated activity.

It authorizes the commissioner to exercise all incidental powers to carry out the aquifer protection laws, including issuing orders necessary to enforce rules and regulations adopted under those laws.

BACKGROUND

Regulated Activities and Best Management Practices

By law, a regulated activity is any action, process, or condition which the DEP commissioner determines, by regulation, involves producing, handling, using, storing, or disposing of material that may pose a threat to groundwater in an aquifer protection area, including structures and appurtenances used in conjunction with the regulated activity. A best management practice is a practice, procedure, or facility designed to prevent, minimize, or control spills, leaks or other releases that pose a threat to groundwater (CGS 22a-354h).

National Pollution Discharge Elimination System

The NPDES permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources (pipes, ditches, and channels) that discharge pollutants to U. S. waters (40 CFR 122).

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

RCRA regulates solid and hazardous wastes (42 USC 6901 et seq. ).

OLR Tracking: PF: HN: JL: dw