Story By John Murray
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) issued a consent order today, November 9th, punishing the City of Waterbury for dumping 5,000,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Naugatuck River on October 9th. The city has been ordered to clean the river, stock 1500 trout, sponsor a family fishing day in the Spring, and develop an Emergency Response Plan by December 31st, 2017.
The 9-page consent order was signd by Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary on November 3rd, and finalized today with the signature of Robert Kaliszewski, the Deputy Commissioner of DEEP. In the document, obtained by The Waterbury Observer, DEEP stated that the City of Waterbury failed to notify the State Department of Health about the 5,000,000 gallons of raw sewage dumped into the Naugatuck River, which the city was legally required to do so.
The raw sewage “caused an acute toxcity event beyond the allocated Zone of Influence resulting in a large fish kill.” The fish kill was in direct violation of the permit the city has to run the facilty.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary has hired independent electrical contractors from outside the city to investigate an electrical accident at the Waterbury Pollution Contril Facilty that triggered the sewage spill. O’Leary has also ordered a police investigation to document the exact timeline of the accident, and to obtain all documents relating to existing protocols about informing the general public about spills, and methods of communicating the news to towns and cities down river.
“I didn’t know about the magnitude of the spill until I read about it in the newspaper,” O’Leary said. “I was shocked at the amount of sewage that went into the river, and I’m deeply disturbed that I wasn’t informed about the magnitude of the spill.”
The mayor said he takes responsibility for the public not being informed of the incident for nine days because, “I’m the mayor and the buck stops on my desk.”
O’Leary said he is already working to rectify the communication breakdown from the sewage treatment plant, to the mayor’s office, to the general public.
“We are trying to make something positive out of a very negative situation,” O’Leary said. “At this point it’s all we can do.”