Mansfield takes steps to keep town free of fracking waste

In this photo, members of the Mansfield Town Council raise their hands during a vote at a town council meeting in Mansfield, Connecticut on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (The Daily Campus)

Mansfield will begin exploring a ban on fracking waste in the coming weeks, town council members decided Monday night.

Residents submitted a petition to adopt an ordinance that would prevent the town from acquiring or storing any waste produced during the fracking process or any byproducts of that waste. The waste, which primarily comes in the form of water, could currently be used on Mansfield roads as an anti-freezing agent in winter months.

“I’m very concerned with the idea that potentially some of that (waste) will be used on the streets,” councilman Alex Marcellino said. “We’ll certainly have a problem with the environment. It could affect our water.”

Council members voted to send the proposed ordinance to the town attorney for review, which Deputy Mayor Paul Shapiro said is “the first step” in bringing a finalized ordinance to a vote.

Following the decision to send it to the town attorney, councilwoman Toni Moran made an additional motion to hold a special public hearing to receive comment on the issue before the regularly scheduled Oct. 13 council meeting.

Marcellino said as far as he knows, fracking waste is not being used on Connecticut roads at this time. However, several other states utilize it, and he believes Mansfield should be proactive in preventing it from ever reaching the town.

Multiple activists spoke in support of the measure during the public comment period, urging council members to take immediate action.

“If the (waste) is treated at some of the waste treatment plants in Connecticut – and there are big plants in central Connecticut – then after they treat it, they’re either going to dump it in the rivers or they’re going to sell it for de-icer,” Eastern Connecticut Green Action member Gary Bent said.

Bent said fracking companies do not fully clean the waste water, as the process is too expensive. He said Connecticut currently has a moratorium on bringing the waste into the state, but it will expire in two years. 

With the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responsible for writing the regulations, Bent wants to put pressure on municipalities to take independent action if state regulations are not written strongly enough.

If the ordinance passes through the town attorney without any legal issues, then the council will listen to concerns from residents during the public hearing.

“I think people will be supportive of (the ordinance),” Marcellino said.

Mansfield Historical Society receives funding

The Mansfield Historical Society came into Monday night’s meeting hoping for $7,500 from the town, but members of the society’s executive council walked away with smiles on their faces after receiving twice that amount.

“We’re the stewards of Mansfield’s history, and we’re very pleased to move forward with the town,” president Keith Wilson said.

The historical society plans to acquire an old town hall building constructed in the 1840s and an old town office building constructed in the 1930s, both of which it currently occupies but does not own. The buildings are in need of repair, and the society needs ownership of the buildings to pursue the necessary renovations.

Society officials requested $7,500 from the town, which would accompany another $7,500 in community fundraising and $15,000 they hope to obtain in state grants.

Councilwoman Betty Wassmundt caught everybody’s attention when she proposed giving $15,000 instead of the requested $7,500 – eliminating the need to raise any additional funds.

“We would not argue with that,” historical society executive council member Bruce Coulette said, as laughter filled the room.

The historical society plans to use the funds to survey both buildings and assess how much work needs to be done. Coulette said neither building currently meets federal standards to provide access for those with disabilities. With exhibits planned at those sites, working to meet federal standards would be one of their first priorities, according to Coulette.

Council members were enthusiastic about supporting the society, and unanimously approved the additional funds.

“The historical society an absolute treasure in this town,” councilman Bill Ryan said.


Kyle Constable is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kyle.constable@uconn.edu. He tweets @KyleConstable.