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Danbury to enact more pollution controls, concerns raised over grass clippings and driveway car washing

Danbury officials are working on a plan to reduce water pollution, in order to comply with new state and federal regulations.  There was some heated debate about the wording of an ordinance. 

Councilman Paul Rotello says it was intentionally vague so code enforcement officers could use their discretion on violations, but it could mean everyone in Danbury with a driveway has an illicit connection to the stormwater system.  He added that the ordinance could be interpreted as anyone with grass clippings that blow into the street or soap from a driveway car wash could be counted as an illicit discharge. 

The regulations are connected to Danbury's municipal separate storm sewer system general permit from the state.  The ordinance will allow the City to track pollution found in local waterways back to their source, and notify a polluter to work with them to fix the issue. 

Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says the intent of the ordinance is not to have people with a few grass clippings to be written up.  He's advocating that people who wash their cars in their driveway to be conscientious.

When Rotello asked city officials to bring it back to committee for another look, he was told there was no need because the ordinance won’t be strictly enforced and that enforcement officers could use their discretion on violations.  

Iadarola accused Rotello of putting a lot of undue fear and potential stress on homeowners. 

If Danbury violates the general permit, a specific permit would be written.  Iadarola says that would lead to chaos.  He also warned of possible concent decrees, court orders, mandatory oversight and mandatory staffing. 

Iadarola says the ordinance was well debated and well explained.  It's based off a model ordinance and he doesn't believe changes would meet state regulations.  Iadarola added that habitual things done as a matter of routine do create pollution and the Clean Water Laws aim to change people's culture and habits. 

Rotello says there's no language that separates ownership and tenancy and who pays the penalty.  He was also concerned that people on private roads would all be counted together.  If someone who is a violator is notified, they can't transfer their property.  He says there's no exemption for private roads so if one neighbor has a violation, another might not be able to sell their home.   

Rotello is concerned that there are no exceptions to previously approved curb cuts or permits, nor will there be any so-called grandfathering or pre-existing nonconforming use.  In addition to grass clippings, leaf debris and runoff from at-home car washes, Rotello also says City mandated winter storm treatment of private stairs, driveways and sidewalks will be a violation if any material escapes the property. 

Rotello has proposed language that will eliminate that risk while achieving the main objective of this clean water initiative which he believes also satisfies the State.

The proposal was sent by the City Council to a public hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.  

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