New Haven’s alders tackled a wide range of environmental issues facing the city at a committee meeting on Tuesday night in the aldermanic chambers.
The Board of Alders’ City Services and Environmental Policy Committee held a public hearing on Nov. 14 about three city ordinances concerning storm water drainage, waste management and parking zones. The public hearing focused primarily on efficient management of city services and protecting New Haven residents from waste produced by hydraulic fracturing.
The alders first heard testimony from City Engineer Giovanni Zinn ’05 on an ordinance that would authorize Mayor Toni Harp to apply for and accept a grant for storm-water-depth and flow-monitoring equipment. Zinn described how the system, which he has been developing in partnership with researchers at Quinnipiac and Yale, reduces costs to the city by collecting drainage system data more efficiently.
Since the project has already received a grant from the Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation to purchase the equipment, Zinn asked the alders to match the grant’s funding.
Then the hearing moved to discussion about a request for an ordinance that would prohibit waste associated with natural gas and oil extraction. Laura Cahn — chair of the New Haven Environmental Advisory Council, the city board that recommended the ordinance — said that while hydraulic fracturing does not take place in Connecticut, loopholes in current state law allow neighboring states such as Pennsylvania to transport waste from natural gas extraction to Connecticut.
“Pennsylvania has so much fracking waste that they’re shipping it out to eight other states to get rid of it and it’s really not good for the environment,” Cahn said.
Jennifer Siskind, Connecticut local coordinator for international nonprofit Food & Water Watch, said that current ordinances outlaw waste from only one of the four steps in the fracking process, meaning waste produced in the other three steps can be transported to Connecticut.
The transfer of fracking waste could pose significant health risks to New Haven residents, Sisken said. Citing studies from the Yale School of Public Health, she added that waste from natural-gas extraction has carcinogenic effects and contains radon, a radioactive material. Radioactive materials in turn leach into soil and aquifers, contaminating food and water sources that eventually enter the human body. Sisken said that waste management facilities in New Haven often do not take the necessary procedures to ensure that untreated waste does not contaminate air and water, and she called on lawmakers to ban this transfer outright.
“We as a coastal city have an obligation to the whole United States to protect our air, our water and our land from more toxins,” Cahn said.
Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand GRD ’99 said that he supported the goal of protecting New Haveners’ health but worried that change is likely to be slow on the state level, where legislators have largely obstructed previous efforts to restrict waste transfer. Given state lawmakers’ resistance, the city should produce measures like Cahn’s proposal, which could close loopholes in state law, Sisken said.
During the final portion of the meeting, alders heard testimony on a proposal that would establish a residential parking zone stretching the entire length of Anthony Drive in the Lighthouse Point neighborhood. Michael Pinto — deputy director of the city’s department of transportation, traffic and parking — said the establishment of a residential parking zone would ensure parking spaces for residents.
Lisa Milone, a resident of Anthony Drive, explained that parking shortages are a seasonal issue, with summertime visitors to Lighthouse Point Park taking up spaces residents need, sometimes even encroaching on residents’ driveways. Milone said that “everyone on the street was in agreement” and would support even a seasonal ordinance from the city.
Anthony Drive resident Margherita Guistinello also testified, saying that although she would support the establishment of a residential parking zone, she would prefer an ordinance that was in place year-round.
Five members of the public attended the hearing.
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Correction, Nov. 15: A previous version of this story misspelled Laura Cahn’s last name.