Minutes of the October 15, 2015 Meeting of the
Representative Advisory Board to the
Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority
Groton Senior Center
102 Newtown Rd, Groton, CT 06340
1. Call to Order and Roll Call
Chairman Allen called the meeting to order at approximately 7:00 p.m.
Representative Advisory Board: (RAB) Members: Stephen Coit, Bozrah; Carol Russell, East Lyme; Thomas Seidel, Franklin; Martin Artale Jr., Groton (City); Mary Lou Smith, Groton (Town); Timothy Norris, Ledyard; John Geary and Anthony Siragusa, Montville; Rodney Bowie, Norwich, Jerry Morales, Preston; James Fogarty and George Jackson, Salem; Chairman Dennison Allen, Sprague; Jeffrey Callahan and Michael Adair; Stonington Borough; Kristen Widham, Waterford.
Authority Members: Chairman Edward Monahan, Vice-Chairman Harry Watson, Barbara Lee Franciosi, Peter Balestracci, Treasurer Paul Eccard.
Authority Staff: General Manager Josh Cansler
2. Public Comment - None.
3. Approval of Prior Minutes – Vote Required
On motion of Mr. Fogarty, seconded by Mr. Jackson, the minutes of the July 16, 2015 meeting were unanimously approved, with one change: under para 7 “New Business”; change name of Ms. Widham to Ms. Russell.
On motion of Mr. Norris, seconded by Ms. Russell, the minutes of the August 27, 2015 Public Hearing on Proposed Rate Increases, were unanimously approved, with three abstentions (Mr. Fogarty,
Mr. Jackson, Mr. Seidel).
4. Report By The Authority Chairman
Dr. Monahan presented the Authority report, with highlights as follows:
A. Consent Agreement with Department of Health
On July 23rd, 2015, the State Department of Public Health (DPH), Drinking Water Section, issued a draft Consent Order as a result of the North Stonington incident. The purpose of the Consent Order was to establish a deadline for SCWA to have a permanent new pump station in operation. In addition DPH wants to establish milestones for SCWA to complete Asset Management Plans for all 15 divisions, and an updated Water Supply Plan. After first discussing the Consent Order with Attorney Kepple, Dr. Monahan and Mr. Cansler met with DPH in Hartford on August 6th to discuss the language of the Consent Order, and the requirements and deadlines of the Consent Order. As a result of that discussion, DPH sent a modified Consent Order to SCWA on August 7th.
After legal review, and approval by the Authority, SCWA sent a response back to DPH on August 27, 2015. In addition to several changes in the language of the Consent Order, SCWA requested that the Consent Order be changed to a Consent Agreement, to better reflect the ongoing cooperation between the two agencies to rebuild the Pump Station at North Stonington, and to develop Asset Management/Water Supply Plans.
Based on a previous invitation from Dr. Monahan; Lori Mathieu, Chief of the DPH Drinking Water Section, attended our September 21st Authority Meeting, along with two of her Division Chiefs (Gary Johnson, from the Enforcement Division and Tom Chyra from the Engineering Division).
The Authority meeting with DPH went very well, and after much discussion about the North Stonington tank rupture, and Asset Management Planning, Ms. Mathieu signed the Consent Agreement, with the requested SCWA modifications. A copy of the Consent Agreement was provided (via email) to all the Representative Advisory Board Members, and is also available to the public at the SCWA office.
B. North Stonington Pump Station Replacement
At the August 31, 2015 meeting, the Authority voted to replace the original North Stonington pump station, at its current location, rather than go forward with the previously discussed modular building. The decision by SCWA to rebuild the pump station, rather than purchase the fully-equipped modular pump station, was made for two reasons. First; the modular building was going to take longer to construct/deliver than originally proposed, and second; the insurance company stated they will only reimburse expenses involved in replacing/repairing the original pump station, not expenses related to a new pump station.
Lenard Engineering completed the design and equipment plans for the new pump station, and construction began the last week in September. In addition, SCWA has ordered all of the new equipment for the new pump station. Construction of the pump station should be complete by mid-November, and equipment hook-up and testing by the end of November. SCWA is still working with the insurance company regarding reimbursement for the cost of replacing the pump station, as well as costs related to emergency actions after the tank rupture to provide temporary water to the customers, and to get a temporary system installed and running.
A question was asked about whether insurance was going to cover all of the costs of replacing the North Stonington Pump Station. Authority Chairman Monahan and General Manager Cansler explained that SCWA is still working with the insurance company regarding reimbursement for the cost of replacing the pump station, as well as costs related to emergency actions after the tank rupture to provide temporary water to the customers. Mr. Cansler stated the biggest hurdle with the insurance company has been convincing them that we simply can’t replace 50-year-old equipment with like equipment because the technology has advanced since then. He pointed out that most of the equipment from that time period isn’t available anymore.
C. Transfer of Lantern Hill Division to Aquarion
Recent engineer estimates for the cost of repairs to the Lantern Hill (Town of Stonington) pump station are approx. $85,000. As a result, Mr. Cansler met with Aquarion on June 10th to discuss possible alternatives to providing water to the 23 residents in Lantern Hill currently on SCWA water. After review of several alternatives, the best solution was determined to be connecting the Lantern Hill distribution system into an Aquarion water main that runs within 200 feet of our nearest main. On August 10, 2015 the Authority voted unanimously to have the General Manager follow through with Aquarion and the Department of Public Health on transition of the property.
D. SCWA bid to provide Water Services for the Town of Ledyard
SCWA submitted a bid on July 15, 2015, to provide meter reading, customer notices, and water billing/collection services, for Town of Ledyard customers. This bid was in response to a June 15, 2015 Town of Ledyard Request for Proposal (RFP), titled “Water Services”. On August 11, 2015, Dr. Monahan and Mr. Cansler met with Ledyard WPCA at the Ledyard Town Hall to discuss our proposal. At their regular Town Council Meeting on August 26, 2015, the Council voted to award the contract to Groton Utilities, although the SCWA bid was about 10% lower.
E. Town of North Stonington – New Center for Emergency Services
The Town of North Stonington received a grant of $245,400 from the State to extend SCWA’s water distribution system 1500 feet to the new Center for Emergency Services. SCWA has been working with the Design/Engineer Firm to assist with planning the main extension and Emergency Center water system. A recent study by Lenard Engineering determined that it was not feasible to provide fire flow capacities within the system, primarily due to the capacity of the distribution system to handle the additional volume and pressure.
F. State Water Plan and Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCC)
Pursuant to Public Act 14-163, a State Water Plan for the management of water resources in the State of Connecticut is required to be presented by the State Water Planning Council (WPC), to the General Assembly by January 1, 2018. The WPC has assembled a Steering Committee to coordinate the development of the Plan. In conjunction with State Water Plan, DPH has coordinated the activities of the three Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs).
Mr. Cansler attended the first of several Informational meetings regarding the Eastern Management Area WUCC, which was held on September 30, 2015 at Eastern Connecticut State University.
A question was asked about the purpose of the WUCC. Dr. Monahan explained that the purpose of the State WUCC process was to evaluate all of state’s public water supply systems, and coordinate future planning in an effort to maximize efficient and effective usage of the public water supply systems. The WUCCs provide for a coordinated approach to long-range water supply planning on a regional scale.
G. SCWA Interaction with SCCOG
SCWA and the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments (SCCOG) continue to interact cooperatively. To this end, Chairman Monahan routinely attends the regular monthly SCCOG meetings and frequently the SCCOG Regional Water Committee meetings as well.
SCWA’s General Manager is participating on the SCCOG Regional Water Committee’s Technical Advisory Subcommittee (TAS). SCWA welcomes this opportunity to assist SCCOG on technical matters.
H. Water Planning Council – Advisory Group
SCWA’s General Manager continues to serve as a member of the Advisory Group to the Connecticut Water Planning Council (WPC). The WPC consists of a member from each of the following state agencies: Office of the Policy & Management, Department of Public Health, Public Utility Regulatory Authority, and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The mandate to develop a comprehensive state water plan by 2018 heightens the significance of the WPC’s role in water supply planning.
I. Connecticut Water Works Association (CWWA) – Legislative Affairs Committee
SCWA’s General Manager continues to serve as a member of the CWWA Legislative Affairs Committee, which addresses proposed state/local legislation affecting CWWA members in an effort to achieve effective policies that assure reliable high-quality water to protect public health.
J. 2016 Budget - Rate Increase
The FY16 SCWA budget includes a proposed 5% increase in water rates, service charges, capital charges and connection charges, with the projected implementation date of November 1, 2015. The Representative Advisory Board (RAB) “Rate Review Procedure” dictates a 90 day review process. The Representative Advisory Board (RAB) held a Public Hearing on the rate increase at the Montville Emergency Services Building, in Montville, on August 27, 2015. The next step is for the RAB to address the proposed rate increase, and forward to the Authority any advice or comments on the proposed rates. Based on the advice/comments of the RAB, the Authority shall take action to approve/disapprove the proposed rate increase.
K. FY15 Independent Audit
The auditing firm of CohnReznick (New London office) conduct the FY 2015 audit in August. We are expecting a Final Audit Report by mid-November. Their fee of $14,250 for the FY15 audit was approved during the last Representative Advisory Board meeting in April. Based on the guidance received during the last Advisory Board meeting SCWA has requested quotes for the next three years from CohnReznick. We have not received their quotes back yet.
5. Report by the Chairman of the Representative Advisory Board – Chairman Allen stated that he had nothing to add to the report and discussions from the meeting.
6. SCWA Proposed Changes to Rate – Vote Required: – On a motion of Ms. Smith, seconded by
Ms. Widham, the Representative Advisory Board voted unanimously to support the proposed Rate Increase of 5%, effective November 1, 2015.
7. Adoption of Year 2016 Meeting Schedule – Vote Required – On a motion of Mr. Norris, seconded by Ms. Smith, the Representative Advisory Board (RAB) voted unanimously to approve the proposed RAB meeting schedule for Calendar Year 2016. Approved dates are: January 21, 2016; April 21, 2016; July 21, 2016; and October 20, 2016.
8. Election of Representative Advisory Board Secretary – Chairman Allen pointed out that currently General Manager Cansler has been taking notes and serving in the role of RAB secretary. Since none of the RAB members commented on this agenda item, no further action was taken.
9. Representative Advisory Board Member Reports - None
10. New Business - Ms. Russell requested to address the Representative Advisory Board (RAB) regarding her concerns about fluoride in the water and her concerns about proposed changes in legislation regulating fluoride in drinking water by the Connecticut Department of Health (DPH). Her comments were as follows:
“As you may be aware, HHS issued a final rule on April 27, 2015 that modified the CDC guidelines for optimal water fluoridation for the first time since 1962. The final rule reduces the CDC guidance for optimal fluoride to a set level of 0.7 mg/L, while the standard under current CT law, based on the old guidance, is a range of 0.8 to 1.2 mg/L. On May 18, 2015 the CT DPH issues a notice to all public water systems in CT which fluoridate to continue applying the current CT fluoride standard until changes are made in CT law.
As CT DPH now considers changes to our State law governing water fluoridation, my hope is the CT DPH will also consider an additional revision – to add language to enable a fluoride moratorium when such may be in the best interest of the public health. At a minimum, a short term moratorium would avert continued excess fluoridation statewide while technical issues are identified and resolved to comply with the revised CDC guidance. However, more importantly, a moratorium could be used to convene a panel of experts to review the implications of emerging science about water fluoridation and the potential for adverse health risks relevant to brain development and endocrine function.
Consider the following:
Since June 2000 the toxicologists, biologists, and other professionals at the US EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., speaking through their union, have urged a national moratorium on water fluoridation, citing the need for more epidemiological studies on possible side effects, including emerging science linking fluoride to potential adverse impact on the developing brain.
In 2006 an NAS/NRC panel of experts found the EPA MCL and the MCLG for fluoride in drinking water is not protective against adverse health effects, citing dental and skeletal fluorosis. The report also called for more research on fluorides ability to be an endocrine disruptor and to impact the brain. The panel found artificial water fluoridation to be the most significant source of fluoride exposures in the US – approaching 50% or more. (Today the EPA continues in the lengthy process of revising their fluoridation standards in response to this NAS/NRC report. The recent CDC revision to optimal water fluoridation was triggered specifically by the dental fluorosis concerns in the report.)
In October 2012 a study out of the Harvard School of Public Health found potential developmental neurotoxicity of fluoride should be a high research priority.
In their study published in March 2014 two highly esteemed researchers – Professor Phillippe Grandjean, MD (Harvard School of Public Health) and Professor Philip J. Landrigan, MD MPH (Mount Sanai School of Medicine) – determined sufficient data exists to find fluoride is a developmental neurotoxicant.
In January 2015 researchers from the University of Kent in England published a significant study which found a strong association between community water fluoridation and prevalence of underactive thyroid disorders. The Kent study concluded by questioning the safety of community water fluoridation as a public health measure and recommended consideration for reducing all sources of fluoride in the environment.
In February 2015 a published study out of York University of Canada, using US data, found a significant ecological association in the states whereby the greater the proportion of people getting water from fluoridated public water supplies, the higher the rate of medically diagnosed ADHD among 4 – 17 year olds.
Do we continue to mandate water fluoridation pending more studies? I believe when it comes to the public water supply, it is bet to err on the side of caution and call a time-out while a panel of experts weighs in. With 90% of Connecticut’s public water supply fluoridated, we cannot afford to assume there are no problems, only to find out years later we made a big mistake.
I hope this will become a legislative change that SCWA will support.”
Chairman Allen asked the RAB as a whole if this was an issue that should be looked at from a RAB committee to determine if the issue of a moratorium on fluoride in CT issue that should be elevated by SCWA to the State or Federal level.
Mr. Fogarty stated that this is a national Issue that has already been addressed by agencies within the Federal government.
Ms. Widham asked if there were similar organizations taking a stand on this issue.
Ms. Russell said that SCWA should take the lead within the region pushing for a moratorium on fluoride.
Mr. Seidel asked if it was reasonable to expect the State of Connecticut to come up with better guidelines on fluoride than federal agencies that are charged with establishing guidelines on Fluoride, including the CDC. He also pointed out that the chemical fluorine is found naturally as a fluoride ion in many water sources, including some of SCWA’s.
Mr. Siragusa stated that this still seemed more like a Federal Issue. He also stated that the state or federal government would be conducting public hearings if this was such a big issue.
Authority Member Franciosi asked if Ms. Russell had discussed this issue with her state representatives or her local municipality.
Mr. Callahan made a motion to have the RAB legislative committee look into this issue and report back with recommendations. Prior to the motion being seconded, there was further discussion about whether or not this issue should be addressed by SCWA, and if so what role should SCWA play in addressing this issue.
Mr. Fogarty made a motion that instead of addressing this issue through the SCWA Legislative Committee; General Manager Cansler should address this issue with the Connecticut Water Works Association (CWWA) Legislative Affairs Committee, since he is a member of that committee. This motion was seconded by Ms. Russell.
On motion of Mr. Seidel, seconded by Mr. Bowie, the meeting adjourned at approximately
Josh Cansler, Secretary