On an island where the Mill River flows through New Haven sits English Station, a defunct electric power plant once teeming with contaminants.
The 9-acre plant embodies every municipality’s struggle with sites known as Brownfields, abandoned plots where commercial and industrial businesses once operated, mostly at a time when environmental laws were less stringent. Throughout New Haven County, urban and suburban areas alike are grappling with the costly process of reclaiming these eyesores, cleaning up the environmental and health hazards lurking there and finding new uses for the parcels.
English Station is one of 27 Brownfields on a list that cities and towns in Greater New Haven identified to the Connecticut Brownfields Redevelopment Authority as priority sites for reuse. Many are situated near major routes, highways and existing commercial hubs. Some are more isolated.
“It’s really a positive to be on the list because it attracts developers,” said Cynthia Petruzzello, vice president and redevelopment project manager for CBRA.
English Station was once owned by United Illuminating Co. and burned coal and oil from the 1880s until it was decommissioned in 1992. In 2000, UI paid Killingworth-based Quinnipiac Energy $4.25 million to take the plant off its hands.
Quinnipiac Energy set up a $1.9 million fund for remediation but that money has been spent.
The current owner, Evergreen Power, last summer was in talks to sell the plant to First National Development of Bridgeport. At the time, developer Garfield Spencer said his vision for the property was a mixed-use development with 200 rental units, boat slips and street-level retail space.
Spencer did not return a phone call and email seeking comment for this story and land records in the city clerk’s office show no sale has been made.
CBRA is a division of the Connecticut Development Authority. CDA President Marie O’Brien said CBRA is a starting point for entities interested in brownfield reuse projects and works on them with the state departments of Economic and Community Development, Environmental Protection and Public Health.
New Haven Economic Development Director Kelly Murphy said urban centers typically have numerous brownfield sites. Even a dry cleaning business that closes down would be considered a brownfield because of possible chemical contamination.
“The laws of brownfields have changed even since I started my career,” she said.
Robert Bell, assistant director of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Remediation Division, said the state has 10 to 15 different laws that address the cleanup of hazardous materials.
“Not all contamination is equal,” Bell said, adding that some material stays where it is, other hazards can travel, especially if they leach into groundwater, but others might cause little to no public health risk.
Original article and a list of the Brownfields sites in the Greater New Haven Area can be found at The Register Citizen
By ANGELA CARTER