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Housatonic Railroad to Discontinue Waste Operations

Five-year saga to shut down a solid waste facility in Hawleyville draws to a close.

After nearly five years of residents and town officials complaining about a solid waste facility in Hawleyville that earned multiple notices of violations from state regulators, the Housatonic Railroad has agreed to discontinue the operation and withdraw its permit for the facility to continue operating there in the future.

"In view of a number of factors, including the opinions expressed in your and that  a recognizable system has not been put in place to prevent additional or recurring violations, Housatonic Railroad has decided to withdraw its application," Ed Rodriguez, Housatonic's general counnsel said in a Dec. 26 letter to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection asking that the company's permit application be withdrawn.

The voluntary withdrawal means that the site at 30 Hawleyville Road will no longer be used to receive, reduce and ship out construction debris to Ohio, and because of changes in state regulation, will unlikely operate as such in the future unless the operation comes into compliance with new environmental standards.

"It is important to know and very significant for Newtown to know should the railroad decide for that location to serve as a loading operation, all of the new standards need to be met," First Selectman Pat Llodra said.

Because the solid waste facility had been in operation prior to the enactment of stricter environmental regulations, it had been able to skirt some of those laws, officials have said.

In addition to discontinuing operation, Newtown Transload, which ran the business on behalf of the railroad, must clear out its materials, equipment and other items from the site, Llodra said. The railroad also plans to continue remediating some of the damage done to the property as a result of the solid waste facility, according to Llodra. The site, however, will remain a transfer point for lumber and other railroad operations, activities considered a less intensive use of the property.

The news is a win for the town, Llodra said, adding that since 2007, the town has been battling Housatonic Railroad and Newtown Transload over environmental violations.

"It takes a lot of persistence," the first selectman said of the fight to shut down the solid waste facility. "Government has to be willing to stand behind those issues and stay with it."

John December 30, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Interesting comments on this subject. It appears we have two camps here and it not really about the Housatonic railroad. One that wants to keep Newtown as a bedroom community with no tax base (other than banks, nail salons, pizza, and Chinese resturants) and another who wants to work with businesses effectively to reduce the over all tax burden on residents. I am for option two. Quite frankly I miss the sounds of a train rolling by and liked the idea of the railroad as a continued part of our community. My question is, did the town do their part in exploring a compromise that would bring in tax revenue and reduce the polution? Judging by the towns recent track record, I doubt it.
Swami December 30, 2011 at 04:47 PM
The railroad had years to address the cited violations and clean up their act. No one deserves to have their water supply polluted. This is a victory for the good citizens of Hawleyville in particular, and Newtown in general. Learn to be a good corporate citizen and you're welcome in Newtown, otherwise, good riddance!
pat Llodra December 30, 2011 at 05:53 PM
John. The railroad will continue to be part of our community. HRR has a thriving lumber transport business at that location. The town has had a positive relationship with the HRR in the past and I expect that to be the future situation. The only aspect of the HRR business that is being denied is the waste transfer operation. There was no compromise to be sought in this issue. The environmental damage was real and significant. There was no commitment to remediation, and there was no plan to prevent further damage. The Town has the obligation under law to protect and preserve environmental quality. We cannot compromise away an impact on water quality; wetlands. And, just to be really clear, there was no tax benefit to the town and would not be in the future even if the waste hauling business expanded. (The Newtown Transload tax bill was $250.00 per year, all based on personal property.) We are very active in building a more diverse commercial/industrial presence and have had some recent successes but we strongly maintain that those endeavors have to be consistent with the core values of our community and have to meet environmental standards.
john pookman December 31, 2011 at 04:10 PM
In accordance with current regulations if the DEEP would have ventured further down the railline away from the HRR site they would find more aggregious violations that had occurred many decades past. These I'm sure have contributed more to the detriment of our water source than our recent problems with the HRR.This is a perfect example of a select few working against the benefit of the majority through litigation and a hyper sensitive town politic.This only addresses feelgood measures averting the hardcore decisions that need to be made for a society.Think congress.Remember the Newtown "blight issue"? I have lived in this town my whole life and have only seen it become more upkept throughout the years. There is no need for this ordinance.It only breeds gentrification by litigious means.Pencil pushers and do-nothings have been slowly taking over in the course of the last few decades.This leads to fingerpointing and deadlock. This is not advencement.I do not vote partylines nor do I favor pollution, only whats best for the majority not a select few idealists.
Eric March 13, 2014 at 02:57 PM
The criminals are the town and politicians who allow the municipal dump to operate over the Pootatuck Aquifer

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