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Why is Stonington allowing teens to use a polluted brownfield?

November 22, 2018

There is no question that the Greenmanville Avenue property that Stonington purchased almost two years ago for its proposed Boathouse Park is polluted with hazardous waste, including known carcinogens.

The town documented the existence of the contamination in a grant request in 2016 to the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of Brownfield Remediation and Development, seeking 50,000 of the 2.2 million park, which voters approved, from discussing placement of parking spaces and the final park name to planning a town forum to discuss the design of the boathouse building.

What’s the point of all that if you have no idea how extensive the pollution is and how much it is going to cost to clean it up?

The first selectman led the town into buying a brownfield without knowing the answers to these crucial questions. And the park planning fantasy continues with no public answers to the most pressing questions regarding the site.

There are legal and political fights unfolding nationwide over coal ash pollution, including lawsuits for deaths attributed to workers contaminated in a Tennessee spill cleanup. A federal judge shot down a move by the Trump administration to roll back coal ash regulations.

I reached out to some of the environmental groups that are raising awareness about coal ash risks, including the Sierra Club and Earth Justice, a legal environmental advocacy group.

Josh Berman, a senior attorney with the Sierra Club, told me there “there is an incredible lack of appreciation for how toxic” coal ash can be. He seemed surprised that young people might be allowed to use a likely coal ash dump for recreation.

“The stuff is really, really dangerous,” he said.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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