Network stands against power plant

The proposed 26-acre site for the CPV Towantic Energy Center power plant in Oxford. Competitive Power Ventures plans to break ground next year on an 805 megawatt combined-cycle electric generating facility. -CONTRIBUTED
The proposed 26-acre site for the CPV Towantic Energy Center power plant in Oxford. Competitive Power Ventures plans to break ground next year on an 805 megawatt combined-cycle electric generating facility. -CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck environmental groups are afraid of what could happen if the Towantic Power Plant is built in Oxford.

The Naugatuck Environmental Network, which consists of the Naugatuck Land Trust, the Naugatuck River Revival Group, and the Committee for a Cultural/Environmental Center – Gunntown Road, has spoken out against the planned power plant.

“In general the Naugatuck River Revival Group believes the clocks will be set back decades to the time when this area was polluted at the cost of the economy,” Naugatuck River Revival Group President Kevin Zak said. “The difference being this is going to be more clever and silent. This plant is going to pollute both the water and the air.”

In November the Connecticut Siting Council agreed to consider an application from the Massachusetts-based Competitive Power Ventures for a larger power plant to be built off Woodruff Hill Road in Oxford.

The project had been approved based on permits from 1999 allowing for a 512-megawatt plant on 26 acres in an industrial zone a half-mile east of Waterbury-Oxford Airport. The proposed CPV Towantic Energy Center is now planned to be an 805-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant, to be constructed by June 1, 2019.

Len Yannielli, community outreach director for the volunteer committee that maintains Gunntown Passive Park and Nature Preserve, is concerned about how close the proposed plant is to Gunntown Passive Park.

“This plant is proposed to be built 1.2 miles from Gunntown. What’s coming our way is the nitrous oxide, the soot, which we’re very concerned with,” Yannielli said. “It is 1/30 the size of a human hair. It is very fine particles. We will breathe this in.”

Yannielli also feels the plant would be detrimental to the state reaching its goal of using 20 percent renewable energy by the year 2020.

“Right now we are only at 3 percent. The power plant will set us back,” Yannielli said.

Proponents of the proposal, including Oxford town officials, say the plant would provide a much-needed boost to Oxford’s economy in the form of lower taxes. Based on calculations for the smaller facility approved in 1999, the tax rate would drop by 2.05 mills if the plant is constructed. Proponents also have said the plant will produce enough electricity to supply 750,000 homes.

Zak fears history will repeat itself in the Naugatuck Valley in regards to pollution in the Naugatuck River.

“When the Naugatuck River was first harnessed back in 1700s and the first dams went up, it was the beginning of the end of the river,” Zak said. “Once those dams were put up pollution was put in the river, and air for that matter, at the expense of environment. After the factories have long gone, yes they created jobs and people were able to feed families, but once these factories were finished, we were left with a very polluted river we are paying for right now.”

Zak said the onus should fall on Competitive Power Ventures to prove the proposed plant wouldn’t have a negative impact on the environment.

“It should be CPV’s charge to prove they do no harm, not ours. It is not the responsibility of our volunteer groups to prove they will do harm,” Zak said.

Senior Vice President of CPV Braith Kelly addressed the concerns about the water discharge from the plant, saying there are two types of uses for water on site. The first is for general use, which includes drinking, flushing toilets and using sinks.

“It is no different than any other house or facility in Connecticut,” Kelly said.

The second is the water used in the industrial cooling processes of the plant. While that water is heated none of it goes back into the ecosystem, Kelly said.

“That water goes into a closed loop system. None of that is discharged back into the river,” Kelly said. “The only way it leaves is as steam. There is no thermal or industrial pollutants that will be introduced back to the water treatment facility.”

Kelly also spoke on the plant’s emissions, saying they will be strictly regulated.

“As with any industrial facility there are emissions. Those emissions are regulated by the [Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] and [Environmental Protection Agency] ultimately. The standards applied to the facility are designed by those agencies and the law to protect the most vulnerable in our society, which includes the very young, very old, and those with repertory issues,” Kelly said.

Kelly said there would be strict consequences for violating the rules regarding emissions.

“If we exceed those levels set by the government or state the facility would not be approved. In the future if we violated those levels we would not be able to run. The facility would be closed,” Kelly said.

The Connecticut Siting Council is scheduled to hold the first of at least five public hearings on the proposal Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Oxford High School. A sign-up sheet will be made available starting at 6 p.m.

The deadline for the Siting Council to act on the project is May 12.