A proposed ordinance by two New Haven aldermen may pave the way for increased environmental testing in the community.
On Jan. 16, Aldermen Yusuf Shah and Elizabeth McCormack presented an ordinance amendment during a City Plan Commission meeting that would require environmental testing for all green spaces slated to become new parks, playgrounds, and other community recreation areas. In a December letter to Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez, Shah and McCormack alluded to a Hamden middle school whose soil was found to be laced with environmental contaminants.
“PCBs were found on the property,” Shah said.
In their letter, the aldermen cited citizens’ concerns over the safety of city green spaces as their primary reason for introducing the legislation.
“In New Haven, several citizens have come forward with concerns about the history of the soil where community gardens have been placed,” the aldermen wrote. “Much of this surrounds the fact that hazardous waste can penetrate leafy plants and infect people.”
Shah said that such testing is already performed on future sites of schools in New Haven and that the proposed legislation would provide a similar safeguard for other city green spaces and existing properties.
“We want [the legislation] to be retroactive for properties that may have problems,” Shah said.
According to McCormack, the amendment would call for an examination of the history of a site on which a new park, playground or other community area would be built. This examination would include researching the previous land use of a sight.
If an edifice such as a factory had been on the site, or if the site was contaminated with hazardous wastes, then a decision would be made to determine which chemicals to test for. The city would then hire a contractor to test for the chemicals.
McCormack said that Enviromed Services, Inc. might perform the testing and that officials from the city Health Department, Enviromed, and the Board of Aldermen have already held meetings.
“It was an ordinance originated in the Board of Aldermen, so it can only be applied to New Haven,” said Karen Gilvarg of the City Plan Department.
Shah said the Mayor’s Office and the City Plan Commission will search for existing ordinances that relate to the current proposal. If such a law already exists, then it will be amended. If no such law exists, then the two aldermen will write a version of the law to be presented to a city committee, which would then hold a hearing on the proposed law.
After the committee hearing, the proposed law would go to the Board of Aldermen for a vote. The City Plan Commission would serve in an advisory role to both the committee and the Board. This process may take longer than usual because committees have yet to be created for this year.
Neither alderman was certain when the law would be implemented, but both believed the law would go into effect soon.
“We know we want to try to get it done this year,” Shah said.