EPA Says Derby On The Hook For $4 Million O’Sullivan’s Island Cleanup

The Derby Board of Aldermen have scheduled an executive session meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday Jan. 15 to discuss “pending litigation” involving the cleanup of O’Sullivan’s Island, a former toxic waste dump.

Executive sessions are closed to the public, but are allowed under state law in specific circumstances, such as discussing legal strategy.

While there are no lawsuits pending against the city regarding O’Sullivan’s Island, the city is under pressure by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to reimburse some $4 million the feds spent to clean up O’Sullivan’s Island, a peninsula in Derby where the Naugatuck and Housatonic rivers meet.

The site, once a dumping ground, was contaminated by PCBs. In addition, the property was used as a training school for firefighters, which resulted in an array of soil contamination.

Here is what it looked like in 2007:

In July 2009, then-Mayor Anthony Staffieri announced the EPA had finished the bulk of the cleanup and that the property would be used as a public park. Picnic tables were installed and trees were planted.

A planned fishing pier and boat launch, to be paid for from grants, has never materialized.

The city held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in October 2009 to officially welcome the public to the new park.

But, in August 2010, the EPA sent a letter to Staffieri reminding city officials of the money owed. An EPA official said the city had 30 days to respond to the letter or possibly face a civil lawsuit.

The Staffieri administration apparently hired an attorney who has been negotiating with the EPA ever since.

This is the first time the information has been reported to the public.

A new administration was voted into office in November.

Neither new Derby Mayor Anita Dugatto, her chief administrative assistant, Henry Domurad, nor corporation counsel Kevin Blake commented at length on the issue Tuesday.

Dugatto said she wanted the Aldermen to be brought up to speed on O’Sullivan’s Island before commenting.

Blake said officials will provide more details after Wednesday’s executive session.

Blake was in possession of a O’Sullivan’s Island file Tuesday that was as thick as a city phone book.

Emily Zimmerman, a spokeswomen with the EPA’s New England branch, said Tuesday her agency is still in negotiations with Derby over the $4 million clean-up tab.

She said she couldn’t more details.

A Connecticut Post article published in May 2009 said there was a debate among the feds and the city over which entity would foot the bill for the cleanup, which was originally estimated to cost $300,000 but mushroomed to several million dollars after more contamination was found. Various city officials at the time said there was no way Derby could afford to foot the bill.

An August 2009 Post article paraphrases Derby officials as saying the EPA paid for the project.

The environmental cleanup at O’Sullivan’s Island was discussed during an Aldermen meeting last June, after it was revealed a firemen’s field day could not be held on the property because of health concerns.

The reason, as revealed by Alderman Art Gerckens — the EPA worried the activity could disturb the top, two-foot protective layer of soil, which acts as a barrier between the public and any contaminants still buried in the soil.

Click here to read minutes from that meeting.

Gerckens said he wanted to see more reports detailing the cleanup of O’Sullivan’s Island and whether it was safe to have the public using the space.

Staffieri at the time noted that both the EPA and state environmental officials were at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that opened the park to the public.

At a subsequent Aldermen meeting, former economic development director Sheila O’Malley gave Gerckens a lengthy series of print outs from the EPA website.


posted by: Charles Paisley on January 16, 2014  10:30am

Let me get this straight:  the Eddie Cotter Memorial Brown Zone & Carcinogenic Park is polluted?