From 1998 through 2004, Peter worked with a team of lawyers to fight
for the cleanup of Wethersfield Cove, a community which was badly
affected by pollution from combined sewage overflows from the Hartford,
Connecticut Wastewater Treatment Facility.
The city of Hartford,
like many older urban communities,
has a sewage treatment system that utilizes combined wastewater and
sewers. As a result, during heavy rain
the sewers cannot handle the overflow, and must discharge it into
water bodies. In Hartford,
the Franklin Avenue Interceptor Sewer routinely discharges its
overflows into a
small brook that feeds into Wethersfield Cove, a 70 acre body of water
immediately adjacent to the Connecticut River.
On three occasions, in 1993, 1994
and 1997, operational mistakes by the wastewater treatment facility
overflows of raw sewage into Wethersfield Cove. The
last overflow, which lasted for more than eight days,
21,000,000 gallons of sewage being deposited in the Cove.
From the early 1990s, a local Wethersfield
Leigh Standish (a direct descendent of Miles) led a strong community
to remedy the problems of sewage overflow to the Cove.
In the early 1990s, the problem was
severe. In addition to the 1997 spill,
it was common for waste from the sewer system to wash up onto the
shores of Wethersfield
Cove, including a public beach. Waste
that washed up onto the beach included used hypodermic needles, and on
one occasion, a local resident was stabbed by a used needle.
In early 1998 the residents
contacted Mark Mitchell, the former Director of Public Health for the
City of Hartford,
President of Connecticut Coalition
for Environmental Justice. Through
Dr. Mitchell, the Wethersfield
residents contacted a local community organizer, Joe Wasserman, who is
college friend of Peter.
Peter assembled a team of lawyers,
consisting of himself, Richard Lippes (who was the lead attorney for
residents of Love Canal), and the law firm of Lynch, Traub,
Errante, based in New Haven. In 1998, Peter filed a citizen suit under the
provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act in United States District
Court for the
District of Connecticut. Later that
year, the law firm of Lynch, Traub filed an action in Connecticut
Court, seeking monetary damages on behalf of all of the affected
The federal lawsuit was concluded
three years later, in 2001. Under the
terms of the stipulation, the citizens were granted significant
to intervene in the process of determining options for Wethersfield
received payment for their engineering and consultant fees and for
attorneys’ fees incurred in the litigation.
The Superior Court action, seeking
monetary damages, was finally resolved on the eve of trial, in 2004. The firm of Lynch, Traub, led by its partner
Timothy Pothin, defended the depositions of all of the residents, and
the responses to discovery from the Metropolitan District Commission,
handled extensive motion practice, including the successful defense of
for Summary Judgment. Peter handled the
discovery demands directed to the Metropolitan District Commission, and
discovery pertaining to the technical issues involving the operation of
wastewater treatment facility.
The $750,000 settlement, on the eve
of trial, represented an important victory for the residents. Not only was the money significant, but it
also represented an important acknowledgment by the Metropolitan
the problems of the sewage treatment plant, and particularly of
overflows to Wethersfield Cove, would need to be addressed.
In 2004, the remediation of the
Cove was a critical factor in the Wethersfield Town
election, and the
newly elected Mayor and Councilman were actively supported by Leigh
and the organization that he helped create. Faced
with a Town government committed to cleaning up the
Cove, and the
threat of an additional lawsuit, the Metropolitan District has now
itself to achieve a permanent solution for the Cove.