Public Health Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH'S RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING SAFE DRINKING WATER.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Public Health Committee
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill makes various revisions to the statutes regarding safe drinking water. Among other things, the bill:
1. requires, by January 1, 2020, certain water companies to submit to DPH a fiscal and asset management plan for all capital assets of each water company's community public water systems serving 1,000 or fewer residents;
2. (a) requires DPH to publish on its website civil penalties imposed under the safe drinking water statutes, rather than adopting them in regulations; (b) notwithstanding the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, does not require the commissioner to adopt or revise regulations for imposing these penalties as is required under current law; and (c) requires the commissioner to notify the public at least six months before publishing the civil penalties and hold a public hearing within 30 days after such notification;
3. establishes a process for placing certain water companies in receivership to ensure the quality and quantity of the public drinking water supply;
4. authorizes the DPH commissioner to designate someone to temporarily manage certain water small companies that have abandoned operations after notifying the owner and providing an opportunity for a hearing on the matter; and
5. authorizes DPH to inspect a water company; issue subpoenas; order the production of books, records or documents; administer oaths; and take testimony under oath in connection to an investigation or hearing of a water company in receivership.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Raul Pino, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Public Health:
The Connecticut DPH testified in support of the bill, saying that they believe the enhanced transparency and authority given to DPH would ensure that the public receives a pure and adequate supply of drinking water.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Elizabeth Gara, Executive Director, The Connecticut Water Works Association:
Ms. Gara, on behalf of the Connecticut Water Works Association (CWWA), testified that while it is important to study small water systems, they have several concerns with the bill. First, the bill gives the Connecticut DPH the broad authority to impose civil penalties and attempts to restrict the right of the water company to request a public hearing to contest these penalties. Second, CWWA testified that water utilities would be forced to bear tremendous potential liability because of the bill's receivership provisions. Overall, CWWA believes DPH should work within the existing statutory and regulatory framework to address issues related to small water systems, rather than creating a new legislative/regulatory scheme.
Connecticut Water Company:
Connecticut Water Company testified that while they appreciate the Connecticut Department of Public Health's interest in addressing failing small water systems, they have serious concerns regarding the broad authority given to the commissioner of DPH to impose civil penalties and limit the time for a water company to apply for a public hearing to contest those penalties. They also expressed concerns over the receivership provisions due to potential liabilities for the receivers. They echoed CWWA's testimony, saying that the department should exhaust existing tools within current statute.
Reported by: Geoff Simpson, Assistant Clerk