Operation Fuel Testimony Supporting RB 456 AAC Clean and Safe Well Water

Testimony from Operation Fuel Policy & Public Affairs Director Gannon Long, March 2022.

Co-Chairs Senator Daugherty Abrams, and Representative Steinberg; Ranking Members Senator Hwang, Senator Somers, and Representative Petit,

Thank you for hearing Operation Fuel’s testimony in support of Raised Bill 456, An Act Concerning Clean and Safe Well Water. We thank you for your work to bring this bill to a public hearing and hopefully to the General Assembly for passage this year. This bill adds protections and clean up requirements for private well water.

Operation Fuel ensures equitable access to energy for all by providing year-round energy and utility assistance, promoting energy independence, and advocating for affordable energy. We were founded in the late 1970s as the nation’s first fuel bank, helping struggling families pay their heat and light bills. Today, we also provide water assistance to utility customers at investor-owned utility customers at Aquarion and CT Water, as well as municipal and non-profit companies including Jewett City, Norwich, and MDC. Any CT resident struggling to pay utility or water bills can apply for aid at www.operationfuel.org/gethelp.

In 2019, this legislature passed a water plan for our state. The act created a Water Planning Council, which now meets every month to discuss droughts, private wells, water rates, river contamination, and related issues. The council brings together state agencies, advocates, researchers, town officials, water company representatives, and other residents. The members are aided by the state’s Water advisory group, in which Operation Fuel is honored to take part. Operation Fuel is also a member of the American Waterworks Association, CT section. We held a successful water efficiency event in October 2021, with more to come. As Operation Fuel continues expanding partnerships with water companies and customers, our policy priorities are affordability and public health. CT has around 250 thousand private wells, serving about 900 thousand residents. Well water contamination is a concern for stakeholders and residents across the state. As maps from the CT Department of Public Health show, wells are concentrated in the rural areas of our state, mostly eastern and northwest. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into stark relief our dependence on water for hygiene, sanitation, and life itself. Outbreaks of contaminants such as arsenic, radium, uranium, radon, sodium, and gross alpha emitters, could exacerbate a public health emergency in vulnerable CT communities.

CT now has opportunities to improve our water infrastructure and safety with state and federal funding. As we move forward to make these generational infrastructure improvements, we must ensure that the most vulnerable and lowest income residents are not unfairly burdened with the costs. Operation Fuel supports 456 to increase transparency, safety, and funding to address and remediate water pollution in wells.

Operation Fuel appreciates the committee’s continued work to improve water quality in our state, and urges support for RB 456 and other well water protection measures before the committee. As always, we are available to discuss further at any time. Thank you for your consideration.