Weighing Benefits Against Risks For Planned Solar Park On Old Dump

landfill NatGeo
Looking north into Black Rock Harbor from the summit of the old dump for proposed solar park. Photograph by Jackson Kuhl, National Geographic.

Black Rocker Jennifer Buchanan, co-host of the Bridgeport Now public access cable show, wonders if the benefits of United Illuminating’s plan to install 9,000 solar panels on the old dump in Seaside Park outweigh the risks. The state regulatory agency Connecticut Siting Council conducted a public hearing last week on the proposal supported by Mayor Bill Finch and approved by the City Council. The agency is the final step in the approval process.

From Buchanan:

Can Taxpayers afford the risk and liability?

The proposed UI installation of a Solar power plant on the landfill adjoining Seaside Park appears to be a positive, productive and income-producing use of land probably not suitable for any use, other than visual open space.

One issue not receiving publicity is the liability to taxpayers included in the land lease for this project. The agreement gives total control of the landfill to UI and total liability to the City of Bridgeport. We the taxpayers are liable for any and all illness, injury or death caused by the toxic material contained in the landfill.

Workers will probably be covered by workman’s compensation. This does not prevent workers (illness, injury or death) from seeking additional damages from the City. We the taxpayers, not UI, will be on the hook for any lawsuit brought by workers, and possibly any damage to the environment for the 20 or more years of the UI lease.

Landfills are living, moving, constantly decaying, organic masses; producing toxic gas and liquids capable of escape into both the air and water. The installation of 8,550 solar panels, bolted onto two solid cement pads measuring approximately 3 x 2 x 2 will add tons of weight and pressure to a 1/2 mile long, 12 acre area on the top of this landfill. There is no guarantee this weight will not compromise the stability of this unlined landfill, which could result in toxic fumes escaping into the air, and contaminated liquid seeping into Long Island Sound.

The question each of us needs to ask; is the benefit worth the risk? Is $350,000 per year this project could bring to Bridgeport enough to cover the financial risk to us, the taxpayers?

I do not believe the benefits outweigh the risks and cannot support this site as appropriate.

UI has listed 10 other equally suitable sites they have considered. Many are located in areas zoned industrial, and not owned by the city. We receive the benefit of having a solar power facility, equal or more income from taxes, without the inherent risk and real liability of building on a toxic, fragile landfill ecosystem, located next to Seaside Park.

The CT Siting Council is the last step in the approval process for this location. They are accepting written (on recycled paper) public comments until September 30. This is your opportunity to communicate your opinion on the use of this site. I urge you to weigh the benefits against the risk and write.

CT. Siting Council, 10 Franklin Square, New Britain CT 06051.



  1. The final deliberations of the CT Siting Council are Sept 30 in New Britain where our councilman Enrique Torres as an intervenor will cross-examine UI. The director of the Siting Council tells me the public can submit written statements 30 days after that date, or until Oct. 30. Email your comments to siting.council@ct.gov or mail to 10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051. In your comments, keep in mind the CT Siting Council is responsible for providing environmental standards for the location, design, construction and operation of utility facilities and for balancing the need for adequate services with the need to protect the environment and minimize damage to scenic, historic and recreational values. Please send your comments to protect Seaside Park!

    1. Madeline, can you share the link for submitting opinions? At the public hearing it was announced the September 30 date for the official formal intervenor continuation, however I heard the general public who were not able to attend the 9/11 public speaking had until September 30 to submit letters of opinion. This really needs to be clarified as to public opinions vs intervenor written statements. Thanks for posting!

    2. Here is the language and link.
      All persons, who do not hold the status of party or intervenor, are invited to either speak publicly at the public comment portion of the hearing or submit written comments to the Council, this is referred to as a “statement of limited appearance.” Written comments must be submitted to the Council no later than 30 days following the date of the public comment hearing. Both oral and written comments are entered into the public record for the proceeding and taken into consideration by Council members. A person who wishes to participate in this manner is not required to seek approval from the Council for such participation or obligated by any other duties. Legal representation is not at all needed in order to speak or submit written comments at the public comment session.
      www .ct.gov/csc/cwp/view.asp?a=947&Q=247608

  2. Mayor Finch to creating green jobs and producing clean energy so our kids breathe cleaner air?

    Mercury in Landfills
    Common sources of mercury in landfills include electrical switches, fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, thermometers, and some medical waste. Exposure to mercury may cause brain, liver, kidney and developmental disorders, particularly in young children and developing fetuses. Mercury is often a constituent in gases that are emitted from landfills.

    92 workers will inhale mercury vapors off this landfill and the medical cost and lawsuits will be in the millions.

    And only the City of Bridgeport will be legally responsible.

  3. It is almost guaranteed workers will become ill after working at the landfill. Based on my son and his coworkers who worked building the Milford power plant on what proved to be an unknown landfill, there will be workers with cancer, seizures and other diseases. Believe me when I say my son and his coworkers became seriously ill six months after working there. Only complete morons would negotiate a contract that leaves the city responsible for the actions of someone else.

  4. I have grave concerns regarding the City/United Illuminating plan to create an 8,550 panel solar farm on land deeded to the city by the late P.T. Barnum. The location, 350 Waldemere Ave, is on or near the site of Mr. Barnum’s last residence, known as “Waldemere.” It is my understanding this land was deeded to the city by Barnum to be used as open space and park land. To use it for commercial purposes, with no great advantage to anyone other than the UI shareholders seems to be unethical and perhaps illegal. I’d like to know, who is benefiting? Seems to me it is the UI shareholders only. It is my understanding that coal plant will still be spewing crap into the air, as usual. Who is responsible for the water run-off? The concrete platforms settling and piercing the landfill? The 92 workers who will be exposed to this? What guarantee do we have these panels will not become airborne during a coastal storm? Who is responsible for injury or damage done?
    With all the brownfields, abandoned factories and vacant land in the city of Bridgeport, why is this considered a “best use” scenario? Wouldn’t a green mayor want to re-use these empty and deserted acres of land rather than destroy a site that has been capped and reclaimed by nature? In the end, as always is the case in Bridgeport, I guess we have to follow the money. So sad.

  5. Actual language of the UI petition to the siting council:
    PETITION NO. 1104 – The United Illuminating Company petition for a declaratory
    ruling that no Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need is
    required for the proposed construction, maintenance and operation of a 2.2 MW AC
    solar photovoltaic facility and a 2.8 MW AC Fuel Cell facility on approximately 22
    acres of the former Seaside Landfill located at 350 Waldemere Avenue, Bridgeport,

  6. This appears to be a sweetheart deal for UI. All the risk is borne by the taxpayers of Bridgeport.

    The siting council will likely cite the approval of the planning and zoning commission and city council as evidence of scrutiny of the plan and endorsement by the residents of Bridgeport.

    What a sad commentary on the governance of Bridgeport.

    I wonder if installation will commence in time for a media event for the Finch campaign.

  7. Jen, here is the explanation of when the public comment deadline is from the ED of the Council.

    From: Bachman, Melanie
    Sent: Friday, September 19, 2014
    To: Madeline Dennis
    Subject: Petition 1104 Public Comments

    Good afternoon, Madeline. In regard to Petition 1104, the September 30, 2014 public hearing is an evidentiary session. Public comments are accepted up to 30 days after the close of the evidentiary record, which, if the evidentiary record closes on September 30, 2014, as we anticipate that it may, public comments will be accepted until October 30, 2014. The confusion may be that under some circumstances, the evidentiary record closes on the same day as the public comment session (for example, only one public hearing is held). In this instance, the evidentiary record has not closed, so we keep the public comment period open until it does close.

    I hope this is helpful. Thanks. Have a nice weekend.


    Melanie A. Bachman
    Staff Attorney/Acting Executive Director
    Connecticut Siting Council
    10 Franklin Square
    New Britain, CT 06051


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