NEW HAVEN — Three New Haven companies and their operator must pay nearly $750,000 in civil penalties under a recent court order for violating the state’s hazardous waste and air pollution control laws and regulations.

 

Suraci Inc., Suraci Metal Finishing, LLC, Suraci Paint & Powder Coating, LLC and Bruno F. Suraci Jr. operate metal-finishing businesses at two locations in New Haven, including a facility on River Street adjacent to the Quinnipiac River.

 

The state alleged that the businesses produced hazardous waste and that the defendants failed to comply with laws regulating that waste, thereby exposing employees, the public and the environment to serious risks. The complaint alleged multiple violations, including improper storage and labeling, lack of proper state and federal permits, failure to conduct inspections, failure to separate incompatible waste materials and lack of proper employee training and certification. It did not allege that companies dumped or spilled any pollutants into the environment.

 Survey: State economy on roads to ruin

Overcrowded highways and roads are the leading transportation concern for Connecticut businesses according to a survey released last month.

The 2013 Connecticut Transportation Survey found that business leaders ranked transportation third, behind economic development and education, for desired state government spending priorities.

More than half (55 percent) of survey respondents identified highway improvements and expansion as providing the most significant benefit to the state's residents and businesses, followed by improving and expanding rail systems (20 percent).

The survey, the first major study of statewide transportation issues, was sponsored by UIL Holdings Corp. and performed by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), Stamford Chamber of Commerce, Connecticut Construction Industries Association and Motor Transport Association of Connecticut.

"This survey measures the increasingly negative impact of the state's outdated transportation infrastructure on the state's residents, businesses and economic vitality," said CBIA economist Peter Gioia, speaking at the December 12 Connecticut Transportation Summit in Stamford.

James P. Torgerson, president and chief executive officer of UIL Holdings, called for improvements to the state's beleaguered transit system.

"Connecticut's economy will continue to stagnate unless we invest in improving connectivity both within the state and to the New York City and Boston metropolitan areas," Torgerson said. "More and better transit options will support economic growth and improve quality of life."

Other key findings of the survey:

• Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) support legislation prohibiting the use of Connecticut's Special Transportation Fund to cover General Fund shortfalls.

• Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents said recent increases in the state's gas and diesel taxes impacted their businesses.

• 64 percent believe better transportation options would increase their ability to attract and maintain high-quality workers.

• Businesses overwhelmingly (88 percent of respondents) want operational lanes added to I-95.

• 15 have considered relocating their companies because of regional transportation concerns.

Stamford Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jack Condlin noted that traffic volume on I-95 was more than three times the highway's capacity of 50,000 daily vehicle trips.

"It's no wonder that this highway structure is among the state's — and even the country's — worst and most unsafe," Condlin said.

"This is a wakeup call to Connecticut's political leadership," said Michael J. Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut. "It's time to stop postponing expansions and improvements and get this state moving again."

 Settlement reached over illegal sewage discharges

 

WEST HAVEN — A settlement involving federal and state regulators and the city of West Haven will reduce illegal discharges of raw sewage into the environment from the city’s wastewater collection system. 

Announced December 19, the agreement is between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice, the state’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), the state Attorney General’s office and the city of West Haven.

Under terms of the settlement, West Haven will reduce illegal raw sewage overflows from its wastewater-collection system, which previously has been discharged to area waterways including New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. The city will also pay a fine of $125,000, to be split equally between the federal and state governments.

“By taking strong steps to eliminate raw sewage that is being discharged into rivers and streams that flow into New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound, we are both cleaning the environment and enhancing the recreation opportunities in these areas,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.  “It is encouraging that the city agreed to quickly settle this case and move ahead with the important work of remedying the problems in their wastewater collection system that have contributed to these untreated discharges.”

Added U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly: “The agreed-upon remediation measures will in particular benefit minority and low-income neighborhoods where many of the sewage overflows occurred.  West Haven’s corrective steps should help to prevent future overflows in these residential areas and make recreation in local waterways safer for residents.”

In addition to reducing illegal raw sewage overflows, West Haven  has pledged to implement an “operations and maintenance” program and a long-term preventative maintenance program to ensure the city’s sanitary collection system remains properly functioning.  The city must also implement a program to reduce the amount of fats, oils and grease that enter the collection system from restaurants. 

EPA investigations found that West Haven reported over 300 discharges of sewage from its collection system between January 2007 and June 2011.

Connecticut and seven other eastern states, all with Democratic governors and all under longstanding orders to reduce air pollution, announced December 9 they would petition the Environmental Protection Agency to force stricter air standards on nine upwind states from the Rust Belt and Appalachia that rely on coal-fired power plants.

The governors said their states have largely exhausted ways to mitigate local ozone pollution and now must act to force upwind states to reduce pollution at the source. Efforts at negotiation have failed, leaving the eastern governors with no choice but to seek federal intervention, according to the announcement

“They have been warned. They know this action is coming,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a statement to the media.

Malloy said the eight states are seeking federal action to lower unhealthful ozone levels that plague Connecticut and produce acid rain across Vermont and New Hampshire, degrading lakes and forests that are key to tourism.

Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont said the states acting Monday are “tailpipe states,” places where pollution generated from states to the west and south is dumped by prevailing winds.

“We’re sick and tired of being the tailpipe for the polluters from our west and south,” Shumlin said.

All eight states are in the Ozone Transport Region, a group of 11 mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states under EPA orders to reduce air pollution. The three states in the region not signing onto the petition are Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine.

The states filing the petition are Delaware, Maryland, New York and every New England state except Maine.

 $70 million project cleaned 18 residential blocks

 

 

 

HAMDEN — The town of Hamden has completed a $70 million residential cleanup of its Newhall neighborhood, removing contaminants in the soil that in some cases date back more than 100 years.

 

The Newhall Remediation Project removed more than 130,000 cubic yards of soil from 240 residential properties containing waste fill tainted with lead, arsenic and volatile organic compounds associated with ashes from wood and coal. The Newhall Street neighborhood historically consisted of wetlands that were filled with industrial and household wastes from the late 1800s to the middle of the 20th century.

 

According to Hamden economic development head Dale Kroop, half of the funding for the $70 million project came from the state, while the other half came from thee Olin Corp.

 

The work started in summer 2010 and finished in January. The principal contractor on the cleanup was Sevenson Environmental Services of Niagara Falls, N.Y.

 

The effort included replacing 80 structures such as sheds, decks and swimming pools; replanting 4,700 shrubs and trees; replacing more than 210,000 square feet of driveways and parking areas; and rebuilding 3.8 miles of sidewalk.

 

The project area is 18 residential blocks bound roughly by Goodrich Street on the south, Prospect Lane and Wadsworth Street on the east, St. Mary Street on the west and extending north to Remington Street and Augur Street. The area includes the former Hamden Middle School property as well as portions of the Newhall Community Center property.

 

Much of the industrial waste on the site came from the former Winchester Repeating Arms plant across the city line in New Haven as well as other nearby factories.

 

While the Newhall residential side of the cleanup is complete, Hamden still must address cleanup at public properties on Rochford Field, Mill Rock Park, a former middle school property, and other residential properties west outside of the Newhall Street area. That work will begin in phases later this year.

In addition, Kroop says that the Hamden Economic Development Corp. received $5 million to undertake significant structural repairs to homes on unstable fill. He says that work is now about two-thirds complete.

 New ‘Nightlife’ cab service to reduce drunk driving downtown

 

 

NEW HAVEN — Park New Haven, which maintains and manages more than 8,000 public parking spots across seven garages and numerous surface facilities in downtown New Haven, has partnered with Metro Taxi and the Town Green Special Services District to announce the opening of the new “Nightlife Taxi Stand” at the Crown Street Garage downtown.

 

Now open for business, the new taxi stand in the middle of the city’s entertainment district allows nightclub patrons easy access to a safe ride home at the end of their night out. As a part of the new initiative, Park New Haven is also waiving the fee charged for patrons who elect to take a cab home and leave their cars in the Crown or Temple Street garages overnight. The overnight fee is waived when the patron retrieves his or her car by 9 a.m. the following day.

 

“The placement of taxi stand in the city center, at the heart of New Haven’s dining scene, is yet another added convenience for the thousands of diners and visitors to downtown New Haven,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr. “More importantly, the service will discourage drunk driving and help keep our streets safe.”

 

Park New Haven is promoting the new taxi service at downtown bars and nightclubs through in-venue posters and signage, and unique bar coasters.

 

“The safety of our customers has always been our first priority, and

offering this new taxi service together with our partners at Metro Taxi

and Town Green is our way to help further improve the safety of our downtown nightlife crowd,” said Park New Haven Acting Executive Director David B. Panagore.

 

“We have long looked to increase the availability of safe rides home

for people who may be over the legal limit or who simply do not want to take the risk,” said Town Green Special Services District Executive Director Win Davis.

 

West Haven-based Metro Taxi was named the exclusive provider of cab service to the new stand at Crown Street Garage. "We are delighted to be a part of this community-focused partnership,"

said Bill Scalzi, president and co-owner of Metro Taxi.

 

The Taxi Stand is open from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday through

Saturday nights year-round. For more information visit

parknewhaven.com

 Study: Trash agency must change the way it does business

 

 

Unless it dramatically changes the way it conduct business, the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA), the quasi-state agency responsible for trash disposal, stands to run a $10 million budget deficit by the middle of 2015.

 

So says an overview report by the New York consulting firm Cohn Reznick, which was commissioned to perform the study by the state’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), which oversees CRRA.

 

DEEP officials have been studying changes to how the state manages its waste stream, including increasing the rate of recycling and continuing to burn rather than bury solid waste.

 

The report found CRRA is on track to run a $4.3 million deficit by the end of the current fiscal year, which concludes June 30, 2014. For the 2015 fiscal year, the report projects a $9.2 million deficit, followed by $9.6 million in the 2016 fiscal year starting July 1, 2015 and ending June 30, 2016.

CRRA handles trash disposal and recycling for approximately 70 municipalities in Connecticut, competing with private firms like Covanta Holding Corp. and Wheelabrator Technologies.

 

More than half of the projected deficit ($5.56 million in FY 2015) will be result of declining electricity prices, which CRRA did not account for in its original budget projections. Those prices determine the amount CRRA is paid for generating power at its trash-burning facilities. The Cohn Reznick study likewise cites a soft recyclables market for part of CRRA’s budget shortfall. It notes that average prices for recyclables are 50 to 75 percent off of their five-year peak.

 

The study also asserts CRRA will start to see more towns move toward the private companies.

 

To make CRRA a viable agency, the report suggests the organization look at other revenue streams like food waste-to-electricity systems, encouraging more recycling by offering municipal incentives, having executives instead of middle managers establish budgets, and partner with other agencies to reduce transportation costs.

 Planned job cuts spark PURA investigation

 

BERLIN — If a major utility plans to eliminate half of its information technology staff, one should expect a few eyebrows be raised.

Such is the case with Northeast Utilities (NU), New England’s largest public utility, when it announced in October it would be outsourcing half of its 400 IT workers to India. Some lawmakers argue this will have a particular impact on Connecticut since 70 percent of those workers — 280 employees — are based here (100 are based in Massachusetts and the remaining 20 in New Hampshire).

So now the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) will open a proceeding into the outsourcing plan, over concern of NU’s storm readiness and to ensure the company is in compliance with the terms of its 2012 merger with Boston-based NStar, which stipulated it would not lay off a disproportionate number of Connecticut workers.

Requests for an investigation were made by Attorney General George Jepsen and Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz, who are among lawmakers who also bemoan the potential loss of Connecticut jobs.

“We’re pleased that PURA has granted our request to open a proceeding to review the full effect that outsourcing information-technology jobs at NU could have on the company’s major storm readiness, response and communication as well as the company’s compliance with the approved merger agreement,” Jepsen said in a statement. “We believe this review is critically important, and we look forward to participating in this proceeding.”

PURA has not yet set a date for the hearing.

NU will outsource the 200 jobs from Connecticut and Massachusetts to India-based Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services, while consolidating its New England facilities. The transition is expected to take place through June 2014. No word has come yet on how many Connecticut jobs will be among those lost, but the company has given 40 of the 200 outgoing employees offers to work for Infosys or Tate Consulting, and voluntary severance packages are being offer to all IT workers. NU has also said most of its grid-monitoring storm response work will continue to be performed in-state.

“In order to meet customer expectations and deliver the latest IT solutions, we have designed one integrated, forward-looking, technology-savvy organization,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Connecticut House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (D-30) represents Southington and Berlin, where NU subsidiary Connecticut Light & Power is located, said he was “disgusted” at the loss of jobs.

In a written statement he said, “We cannot accept this as business as usual,” adding that, “This will probably result in top executives receiving bonuses while middle-class families suffer.”

Northeast Utilities and NStar merged in 2012 (with NStar becoming a subsidiary of NU in Massachusetts), creating one of the nation’s largest providers, with six regulated natural gas and electric facilities serving 3.5 million customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

NU’s Connecticut subsidiaries include Connecticut Light & Power and Yankee Gas.