Connecticut is poised to overhaul the way the state deals with hazardous material spills which should make clean-up faster and more common. While the law mandating change was passed in 2020, implementing it has proved to be a herculean task for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
The program is called Release-based Clean Up and according to DEEP, implementation would align the state with almost the rest of the country, 48 other states. The new system would replace the Transfer Act, which was put on the books in 1985. Under the Transfer Act, properties that were likely to be contaminated with one or more hazardous materials (especially industrial buildings, dry cleaners, auto shops, etc.) would be investigated for said materials only once the property was transferred to a new owner.
From there, according to legal analysis by Carmody Law, the process for proving a property was clean was costly, and the Transfer Act resulted in fewer clean-ups and lower property sales.
Release-based Clean Up would do away with the Transfer Act regulations altogether. Rather than requiring investigation and clean-up at the time of sale, individuals or businesses would be required by law to report a spill or other contamination as soon as it is discovered. Remediation would have to be done immediately and contamination would, ideally, be dealt with sooner and more often.
Hazardous material contamination can severely increase the risks of diseases, including cancers, which is why proper and prompt clean-up is important. In “Toxic,” a 2022 investigation from Inside Investigator, Shannon Coolbeth of New Milford detailed her health struggles after a home heating oil leak from her neighbor’s house was not quickly or fully dealt with by the state.
Coolbeth and her family experienced respiratory issues, headaches, and dizziness, which doctors said was a result of fumes from the spill. Coolbeth herself was diagnosed with a rare uterine cancer and a breast condition that raises the risk of breast cancer, both of which she believes are a result of the spill. There is a hope that these new regulations might keep a similar situation from occurring by hastening reporting and ensuring a thorough cleanup.
The rules around release-based cleanup can’t go into effect until regulators work out how the process will work. DEEP, alongside various stakeholders and the Connecticut Department of Economic Development, has spent the last three years trying to put those rules together. They’ve held a number of working group and subcommittee meetings, with at least two working group meetings still on the books for this year.
Ultimately, DEEP is required by statute to put rules in place, not only to govern how it will enforce regulations and processes but also what those regulations and processes will be to begin with. Regulators will also need to put in place a system for disciplining those individuals and businesses who fail to comply with those standards.
Inside Investigator reached out to DEEP for a more specific timeline but did not hear back by press time.