Greater New Haven Lawmakers Lead Bipartisan Passage Of Legislation To Improve RWA’s Emergency Response Time

Jun 18, 2018

The Connecticut General Assembly gave unanimous, bipartisan legislative approval to House Bill 5507, An Act Concerning The South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (RWA). This bill allows the RWA to respond more quickly to public safety emergencies. It shortens the public hearing notice period for capital projects costing more than $2 million from 20 days to seven days, protecting the public’s right to know while avoiding delays that could impact public safety or property.

“The RWA provides water to 430,000 people in Greater New Haven, and it is vital that they be able to act quickly to keep the water flowing and protect public health and safety in the event of an emergency,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney. “This bill will allow for a prompt, professional response from the RWA, while still allowing adequate time for people in the communities they serve to learn about their plans and weigh in.”

“This bill strikes the perfect balance between protecting public safety and the public’s right to know,” said Senator Steve Cassano, Co-Chair of the Planning and Development Committee. “Time is of the essence when a water emergency strikes, and I’m glad we are able to help problems get resolved faster by working with the RWA on this bill.”

“By passing this bill, we are ensuring that Greater New Haven is prepared for emergency actions concerning our water supply,” said Representative Roland Lemar, Co-Chair of the Planning and Development Committee.  “The people and businesses of New Haven need steady, uninterrupted access to high-quality water and the RWA provides that. This bill will allow them to act quickly and keep the water flowing when the unexpected happens.”

“I want to thank our legislators for their continued support of the RWA” said Larry Bingaman, President and CEO of the RWA. “The RWA is proud of our customer service and response time to main breaks and other minor emergencies. With this legislation enacted, we will be able to act more quickly in emergency situations and bring to these larger emergency projects the high-level of responsiveness that people expect from us. This was a very important bill, and we could not be more appreciative of the leadership shown by the legislators who helped ensure its passage.”

The enabling legislation that established the RWA’s governing structure and operational procedures requires that a public hearing be held prior to the start of any capital project exceeding $2 million. Current law requires that 20 days notice be given before the public hearing is held. That notice period gives RWA customers the opportunity to learn about the issue and attend a public hearing, however, it can also serve as a delay during an emergency. House Bill 5507 shortens the public hearing notice period to seven days, ensuring people living in the communities served by RWA have an opportunity to comment, but not delaying the project when speed is of the essence.

For the purpose of this legislation, an emergency is narrowly defined as an incident in which:

  • delay in the award of a contract or the expenditure of capital funds may threaten the public’s safety, or place property at risk;
  • immediate action is necessary to respond to and/or recover from a natural disaster or hostile human action; or
  • immediate action is necessary to respond to an event threatening or compromising the integrity of the RWA’s information systems and associated infrastructure.

Following legislative approval, House Bill 5507 was signed into law by Governor Dannel P. Malloy as Special Act 18-4, taking effect immediately.