Environment Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5130

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE SEWAGE SPILL RIGHT-TO-KNOW ACT AND EXPANDING CONTINUING EDUCATION PROGRAMS FOR WASTEWATER OPERATORS.

Vote Date:

2/28/2018

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

2/23/2018

File No.:

3

Disclaimer: The following Joint Favorable Report is prepared for the benefit of the members of the General Assembly, solely for purposes of information, summarization and explanation and does not represent the intent of the General Assembly or either chamber thereof for any purpose.

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Environment Committee

Sen. Ted Kennedy, 12th Dist.

Rep. Terry B. Adams, 146th Dist.

Rep. James M. Albis, 99th Dist.

Rep. Dorinda Borer, 115th Dist.

Rep. Larry B. Butler, 72th Dist.

Rep. Juan R. Candelaria, 95th Dist.

Rep. Patricia A. Dillon, 92th Dist.

Rep. Michael A. DiMassa, 116th Dist.

Rep. Josh Elliott, 88th Dist.

Rep. Bobby G. Gibson, 15th Dist.

Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, 3rd Dist.

Rep. Joseph P. Gresko 121st Dist.

Rep. John K. Hampton, 16th Dist.

Rep. Liz Linehan, 103rd Dist.

Rep. Rick Lopes, 24th Dist.

Rep. Brandon L. McGee, 5th Dist.

Rep. Patricia Billie Miller, 145th Dist.

Rep. Bruce V. Morris, 140th Dist.

Rep. Alphonse Paolillo, 97th Dist.

Rep. Geraldo C. Reyes, 75th Dist.

Rep. Jason Rojas, 9th Dist.

Rep. Christopher Rosario, 128th Dist.

Rep. Ezequiel Santiago, 130th Dist.

Rep. Hilda E. Santiago, 84th Dist.

Rep. Caroline Simmons, 144th Dist.

Rep. Chris Soto 39th Dist.

Rep. Charlie L. Stallworth, 126th Dist.

Rep. Peter A. Tercyak, 26th Dist.

Rep. William Tong, 147th Dist.

Rep. Edwin Vargas, 6th Dist.

Rep. Toni E. Walker 93rd Dist.

Rep. Philip L. Young, 120th Dist.

 

REASONS FOR BILL:

Advocates for this bill have shared instances in which the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) failed to notify the public of sewage spills in a timely manner. A specific example used in testimonies includes an incident of approximately five million gallons of sewage spilled into the Naugatuck River in October 2017. Proponents of the bill explained that members of the public were not notified. DEEP testimony explained that not all sewage treatment plants and collection systems utilize the agency's electronic reporting system to report incidents. As such, facilities have the option of notifying DEEP through completing and submitting a paper form; therefore, the agency is not always immediately notified. The agency's electronic system was developed to help facilitate timely notifications to the public. This bill seeks to improve transparency and expedite notification in regards to sewage spills and reporting, as well as, establish recurring educational requirements to safeguards further similar incidents. The bill requires DEEP to post online and in the form of a press release, notice and information of an incident within twenty four hours of such incident; sewage spill incident reports must also be submitted to DEEP electronically, in a form as prescribed the DEEP Commissioner. Additionally, the bill requires DEEP to establish a certification, and continuing education program, for wastewater treatment facility operators.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE – LCO No. 1892

According to DEEP testimony, the agency developed an electronic reporting system in response to Public Act 12-11 to facilitate timely notifications of sewage spills to the public. However, this method of reporting is not required, and not all sewage treatment plants and collection systems utilize this method of reporting. Substitute language requires any report of a sewage spill incident to be submitted to DEEP as an electronic report.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Robert Klee, Commissioner, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP): Supports certain provisions of the bill. DEEP supports enhanced transparency regarding sewage spills, and opposes expanding continuing education programs for wastewater operators. In response to Public Act 12-11, DEEP developed an electronic reporting system to facilitate timely notifications to the public. However, not all sewage treatment plants and collection systems currently utilize the system. Expanding the wastewater operator certification program and developing a renewal process creates a significant burden on the agency. Additionally the continuing education requirements would predominantly apply to municipal treatment plants and will potentially create fiscal impacts on municipalities.

Raul Pino, M.D., M.P.H., Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH): Supports the bill. DPH and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection work together, along with local leaders and health departments work together to notify the public after incidents regarding sewage spills. Quick and direct notices will ensure the protection of public drinking water supply sources.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Louis Burch, Connecticut Program Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE): There is an urgent need for a real-time notification system to warn the public about sewage spills entering the state's waterways. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, over 1 billion gallons of raw or partially treated sewage are discharged into local waterways and the Long Island Sound each year. A sewage spill in October of 2016 occurred over the weekend. Appropriate state authorities were not notified until the following Monday. As a result, members of the public did not receive warning about the spill, and many discovered the event only after observing the sewage in the river. CCE recommends the bill be amended to require sewer plant operators participate in DEEP's electronic reporting system, and to charge the agency with creating a more user-friendly public notification process within existing agency resources.

Connecticut Association of Water Pollution Control Authorities: Licensed wastewater operators skills are changing constantly with new technologies and regulatory requirements. These skills must be honed and improved in the classroom, in the laboratory, or in the field.

Connecticut Water Pollution Abatement Association: Continuing education requirements for wastewater operators will encourage professionals to expand their knowledge. Wastewater operations are a dynamic technology-intensive field that requires routine learning to keep up with the consistently evolving regulations, treatment and management practices. Included with new training requirements, utility employers need to pay for operator training and allow for training time during work hours. As many Connecticut operators currently feel that professional development is a low priority, the result is that there is a significant knowledge gap for Connecticut utilities and deficient wastewater educational network.

Bobby Gibson, State Representative 15th Dist.: This bill is important to transparency and the prevention of sewage waste spills by ensuring that there is better timeline for notification

Bill Lucey, Sound keeper, Connecticut Fund for the Environment / Save the Sound: Last fall five million gallons of sewage was dumped into the Naugatuck River, fisherman downstream were not made aware of the sewage traveling downstream. According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, up to 3.5 million Americans become ill each year from recreational waters contaminated by sewage. Health impacts from raw sewage include gastrointestinal problems, respiratory infections, and fevers. Furthermore, contaminated water leads to serious financial burdens for communities in the form of cleanup expenses, emergency repairs, lost tourism revenues, lost productivity, and medical treatments.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut: Although the Rivers Alliance support strengthening the sewage spill right to know bill, this bill does not do enough. In the past year, there were 384 sewage spills from twenty eight facilities, ranging from small spills to over 1 million gallons. Multi-million gallon spills have occurred thirty five times. Rivers Alliance shared testimony of a sewage spill at the Waterbury sewage treatment plant in which members of the public were not notified more than a week after the incident. Rivers Alliance recommends the following: (1) require utilities to report incidents electronically, (2) require utilities to review and upgrade their emergency response plants, and (3) to expand the sewage right-to-know law to include the reporting of toxic industrial spills.

Geraldo Reyes Jr., State Representative 75th Dist.: In October 2017, five million gallons of raw sewage spilled out of Waterbury's waste treatment plant into the Naugatuck River. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection notified Waterbury residents one week after the incident had occurred. The public must be made aware of sewage spills to maintain transparency and safety, through timely reporting and up-to-date information. Additionally, the continuing education provision for wastewater treatment facility operators will safeguard further environmental disasters.

E. Ray Weaver, Chairman, Vernon Water Pollution Control Authority: Continuing education for wastewater operators will encourage professionals to expand their knowledge and ultimately enhance the safe and effective practices in the wastewater field. Connecticut operators feel that professional development is a low priority and this has resulted in a significant knowledge gap for Connecticut utilities and a deficient wastewater education network. The Vernon Water Pollution Control Authority also provided bullet point facts in regards to (1) State Competition, (2) Financial Risk, and (3) State-wide Support.

The Environment Committee received approximately 48 additional similar testimonies supporting the bill siting 2017 the sewage spill incident into the Naugatuck River, requesting for electronic reporting requirements, and/or expanding the definition of sewage spill to include all discharges of untreated/partially treated sewage and to classify large sewage spills as toxic waste spill.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None Expressed.

Reported by: Pamela Bianca / Ussawin R. Bumpen

03/29/2018