Transforming CT’s Cleanup Regs. – Problems and Opportunities

There is a consensus among stakeholders working with Connecticut’s environmental cleanup programs that change is needed. The rigid framework of the Remediation Standards Regulations (RSRs) combined with DEEP’s lack-luster support for the LEP program and a reluctance to accept site-specific risk assessment has resulted in bogged down remediation programs. This regulatory bottle-neck may be contributing to the slow the pace of the state’s economic recovery.

Under CEEP Commissioner Dan Esty’s vision and Graham Steven’s management, I participated in one of six workgroups set up to tackle questions including: evaluating the effectiveness of the current 16 remediation programs; incorporating liability relief into the remediation system; and surveying successful programs in other states. This was public participation on a grand scale and a great value to state’s taxpayers – six workgroups of 16 people, that’s 96 stakeholders (representing business, industry, legal, environmental groups, consultants/LEPs, and government) contributing their 1,400 years of collective experience to the task of clarifying problems and offering solutions. Each group has met five or six times, and together expended over 3,000 hours of effort in five weeks. At normal billing rates, I’d estimate the professional effort donated to the State of Connecticut during this exercise to be worth over $400,000.

Click on this link to read the Remediation Transformation Work Group reports, see the summary of the problem and an attempt at proposed solutions.

Common threads that run through the workgroup recommendations include:
1. The current system is not working in a manner that benefits the citizens; the Transfer Act is particularly problematic and needs to be fixed.
2. Moving to a unified system has clear benefits.
3. A revised system needs to have site specific risk-based on-ramps and exit points.
4. Other states have successful risk-based models to emulate.
5. Incentives must be included to help unclog the system, protect the environment and re-vitalize the real estate market.

Don’t let Connecticut’s best value go unread. Download the six reports to your Kindle and read up on them this weekend. In a future post, I’ll key – out sections which I found illuminating. Do you have experience with other programs in other states that work well to remediate sites to a reasonable and risk-based level of protection of public health and the environment? Now is the time to have your voice heard. The public comment period on the reports ends on November 7. The DEEP is inviting comment at .

A visit to the High Line Park in Manhattan made skipping work last week look like a stroke of genius. Rather than demolish an abandoned overgrown elevated freight track that once served upper story loading docks, City Parks used the community’s enthusiasm and the track’s unique architectural features to transform this former eye-sore into a linear park. The last train ran the High Line in 1980, carrying a load of frozen turkeys.

Clever paving intersperses plantings with the former rail tracks, ample benches and even a sunning lawn. The High Line elevates City spirits as it winds through 20 west side city blocks. Like creatively used space elsewhere, the High Line has sparked a building boom and urban renaissance, with apartment rental notice taglines now reading “near the High Line”. We saw butterfly and bee-filled flower gardens (yes beehives are allowed in the City), birdhouses, sculptures, stark brick walls, airy new chrome and glass, the gaiety of tourists and blasé kindness of New Yorkers juxtaposed into a sunshine daydream memory. Yup, I could almost live in the City.

The High Line winds from Gansevoort St (W 14th St and 10th Ave) to 30th St, 11th Ave. The park is easily accessible from the West Side Highway; near Chelsea Pier and the Intrepid Museum. There are elevators for handicapped access along the way. I’d recommend a walk from south to north, because the icing on the cake was a visit to the gourmet food truck- food court at 30th Street under the High Line. There we savored a large spicy Falafel platter in a festive multi-lingual community Bier Garden atmosphere. For this seasoned urban explorer, truly one of the best meals I’ve had in NYC, and for thirteen bucks? Fuhgettaboutit!
High Line photo