East Lyme keeping close eye on solar field runoff

East Lyme - The town is continuing to monitor stormwater controls at a solar farm at Grassy Hill and Walnut Hill roads and calling for remediation steps, after another rainstorm hit the area on Thursday.

The Inland Wetlands Agency has a cease-and-correct order against Greenskies Renewable Energy and Centerplan Construction Co., after the stormwater management system partially failed and overflowed during a late March storm. The failure led to silting of wetlands and sedimentation deposits in a stream that flows into Cranberry Meadow Brook.

On Thursday, First Selectman Paul Formica said he visited the solar field site and stormwater appeared to be running at full speed into the detention basin, which he said still needed work. He said water was making its way up to the silt fence. Based on what he saw, he said additional steps needed to be taken to address these issues.

"It was very high up against the silt fence," he said about the water. Formica said he notified the town's Inland Wetlands Agent.

The Inland Wetlands Agency will conduct a show cause hearing at 7 p.m. Monday at Town Hall and will vote on whether to lift the existing cease-and-correct order. There will also be a site walk of the solar farm at 9 a.m. Saturday.

At a hearing last month, the developers and their engineering consultant presented remediation plans that included vacuum removal of sediment.

Formica said the responsible parties should take the "necessary actions" to correct the issues and work with the Inland Wetlands Agency. He said their plan should have prevented the earlier problems that led to water spilling off-site onto neighboring properties.

He said he spoke to the construction company representatives on Thursday, who told him they were doing everything they could to remediate the problem. He also said he will call the state Siting Council, which approved the plans for the solar farm.

Joseph Mingo, the president of the East Lyme and Niantic Land Conservation Trust which owns property abutting the solar farm, confirmed that land trust property had been damaged.

Melanie Bachman, acting executive director of the Connecticut Siting Council, said the developers are continuing to investigate design changes and remediation plans.

The plan for the solar farm, which consists of 17,500 solar photovoltaic panels covering about 24 acres, called for exposed soil areas to be sown with seed mixes after construction. Bachman called it "bad timing" and said the developers had planted seed mixes, but they hadn't had a chance to grow in by the time of the first rainstorm that fell on frozen ground.

She said the council had been on site in April and May and requested a copy of a report of the finalized remediation plans. Any changes to the original stormwater management plan will require the companies to come before the siting council again. She said sometimes plans need to be tweaked.

"We certainly strongly encourage them to investigate measures to make sure this doesn't occur again," she said.

Construction company representatives could not immediately be reached on Thursday afternoon.


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