Conn. DEP delays clean-water regulations

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Marinas have until next September to comply, but some say it’s still not enough time

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection is extending the deadline for marinas to comply with the federal and state Water Pollution Control Act, but some say the extension doesn’t give yard owners enough time to get a system in place.

The act covers discharges associated with runoff from pressure-washing boat bottoms.

The deadline for compliance had been the end of 2008, but the DEP extended it to Sept. 30, 2009.

“While we think the Dec. 31, 2008, deadline remains achievable, we do understand the difficulties in moving an industry from longstanding practices to regulatory compliance,” DEP commissioner Gina McCarthy said in a letter to Grant Westerson, executive director of the Connecticut Marine Trades Association.

Westerson says he’s disappointed the deadline wasn’t extended further — to May 2010.

When the original deadline was established in May 2006, it was understood it would give those affected enough time to get the necessary permits and perform whatever construction was necessary. However, during that time period, the DEP analysts kept changing criteria, and it wasn’t until May 2008 that firm guidelines were established, Westerson says.

After learning of the DEP’s decision, Westerson says he asked the agency to give his members until December 2009 to comply, so they would have the benefit of a construction season and a pressure-washing season.

That request was denied, Westerson says, though the DEP told him that if marinas and boatyards were making a good-faith effort to get a system in place by the time of the deadline, that would be taken into consideration.

“I’m disappointed, but we’ll work with what we have,” Westerson says. “We needed the additional time.”

Cutting corners?
Glen Abrahamsson of Old Lyme Marina also wanted to see the deadline extended beyond September.
“Because the DEP has dragged their feet and it’s such a complicated issue for everybody, the regulation of what is needed came so late. They’re going to make people scramble to get this done, and consequently I think people are going to either take shortcuts or they’re not going to get this done,” Abrahamsson says.

“There has to be a balance between the environment and making this work,” he adds. “Certainly the people that I’ve met and talked with in the boating business, they want to obviously make things better and clean up the water and do things right, but there has to be a balance.”

Westerson says his members are concerned about the cost of compliance. They will have to spend thousands of dollars for surveys and site plans to get through their towns’ review processes, in addition to tens of thousands for pumps, containment systems and other necessary items.

“We’re faced with a tremendous expense, [and] we’re being forced to do things in a very shortened time frame,” Westerson says. “We’ve needed the guidelines from the state to know how to conduct our business afterward. They finally gave us the guidelines, and those are not complete yet, and yet they’ve shortened our construction time.”

Abrahamsson agreed, saying this will cost thousands of dollars, and to pass it along to his customers in this economy could hurt him.

Uncharted territory
“The thought of having to spend [thousands of] dollars to get this thing in with the economy the way it is, is a little intimidating,” he says.

"It’s not like I can go to a company that’s been doing this for so long and say ‘Come on down here and tell me what I’ve got to do,’ ” Abrahamsson adds. “Nobody knows because nobody’s done it. I don’t even know who the heck to call.”

The DEP says it has been working with CMTA’s membership on this issue since 2006, and has sent correspondence to operators, owners, members and employees of marinas, boatyards and yacht clubs outlining regulatory requirements that apply to boat-bottom pressure washing.

“We understand that, particularly at a time like this, that it’s challenging for a business to make a new investment in their operations, to spend the money to take these steps,” says DEP spokesman Dennis Schain. “But this is a matter we’ve been talking with the marinas about for quite awhile, and it is something that’s really important to the quality of the waters of the Long Island Sound.”

The state’s marina owners are concerned about the environment, Abrahamsson stressed, claiming they just need time to adjust to the new regulations. The permitting process alone, he contends, could take months.

“It’s bad timing,” he says. “It’s a good thing, but just not very well done, and I’m not pointing fingers; just the timing of it is kind of difficult.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue.

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