Conservation & Environment Commission



1 - Introduction

2 - Physical Landscape Features

3 - Water Resources

4 - Biological Communities

5 - Land-Use

6 - Recreation & Open Space

7 - Environmental Problems




I: Animal Species List

II: Rare and Endangered Species List

III: Introduced & Invasive Species List

IV: Recreation & Open Space

V: Contact Information

List of Figures

List of Tables

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Natural Resources Inventory for the Town of Branford


The Town of Branford, like so many urban/suburban areas has a number of environment problems associated with human activity. These problems are typically the result of poor land planning practices of the past and inadequate disposal of wastes. Although much of the Town has escaped some of the worst problems we have seen in suburban areas, there are still a number of problems that have the potential to cause harm to the humans, plants and other animals that live here. The information presented below is based solely on those problems that are listed with the Town, State or Federal governments. Budget constraints did not allow for additional surveys or assessments. As a result, this database is far from complete and it is recommended that the Town commit resources in the future to properly document the extent of environmental problems within its borders.

The Branford landfill is located at the end of Marshall Road (located off Tabor Drive) approximately 2000 ft. north of Long Island Sound. The landfill covers a total area of approximately 28.5 acres and includes two disposal areas; a solid waste disposal site that covers about 10.2 acres and includes an older solid waste landfill located on the ZuWalick property, and a bulky and special waste disposal site to the east that covers approximately 18.4 acres. Much of the landfill stopped receiving materials during the mid to late 1990's and only a small portion of the eastern tract currently receives bulky waste and special wastes as approved by the DEP.

The remainder of the site is now being prepared for final closure activities. By 2000, closure had progressed to mixing and grading work. This year it is anticipated that almost 15,000 cubic yards of clean soil will be added to the top to form an 18-inch cap for the nearly 6 acres of area. The top and the sides will be stabilized with grasses, and erosion rills will be fixed throughout the landfill.

Due to problems with potential groundwater contamination, homes in the area were hooked up to public water supplies during the late 1980s. Since that time, no domestic water supplies were coming from the aquifer so water-monitoring plans needed only to report on ground and surface water testing. A monitoring plan for the landfill was established during the mid 1980's. Six groundwater monitoring wells, three surface water sampling stations and four methane gas ports were established to document any pollution the landfill may cause. During the late 1980's, two plumes of leachate (materials from the landfill) were noted heading outward from the landfill: a larger one that includes the ZuWalick property that is heading in a west to southwest direction towards Sybil Creek and a much smaller one that is moving slowly to the east.

Sampling conducted in 1985 showed that all of the wells had elevated levels of ammonia, nitrogen, chlorides and suspended solids. In 1987, monitoring was expanded to include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as xylene, toluene and benzene, compounds common to landfill leachate. Although these compounds can be a problem to living organisms, they were not found to be in concentrations sufficient to cause significant harm to the environment. However, there were instances where the presence of certain compounds did exceed National Primary and Secondary Drinking Water Standards (i.e., dissolvable manganese, dissolved solids, ammonia). Thus, in 1989, the State issued a directive (Consent Order #WC4869, August 21, 1989) to connect all residents in the area to public water.

Well monitoring has continued through to the present (Fuss and O'Neill, Inc. Consulting Engineers, 146 Hartford Road, Manchester, CT 06040). As of 2000 (reported in 2001), there were few changes in the concentrations of chemicals in the groundwater and the plume moved slightly west of its 1999 position. A comparison between 1987 and 2000 shows that, for the most part, there has been no increase in any of the leachates to the groundwater and, in a few instances, some chemicals even dropped in the monitoring wells (i.e., 1,4 -- dichlorobenzene). Some of the changes to the plume in recent years include a decrease in ammonia and an increase in chlorides, the later probably the result of brackish water intrusion rather than leaching from the landfill. One VOC, chlorobenzene, exceeded State of Connecticut Dept. of Health Services Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) in all monitoring events (100 -- 170 mg/L; the MCL is 100 mg/L). The plume continues its movement down-gradient, but at a relatively slow pace. Since no drinking water is taken from the ground, no further remediation is required. Surface waters show little impact from the landfill except higher chloride and sodium concentrations, again most likely the result of saline water intrusion rather than a problem with the landfill itself.

There is another landfill located in the western portion of Town that was used by the DOT for construction debris and road material. This site has been inactive for a number of years and little information about the site is available.

Septic and Sewer Systems
At present, a significant portion of the residential areas in Town are served by the sewer treatment system (Figure 14: Point & Non-point Source Pollution, shaded area on map). The areas remaining that are not served include much of the east and portions of the central and north central sections of Town. Those areas not served by the sewage treatment system are the least densely developed parts of Town and are served by individual septic systems. The septic systems are designed to remove solids and nitrogen wastes from household water through filtering in the soil over a specified period of time and rate. The design of the system and its capacity is a function of the soils underlying the septic system (i.e., percolation rates). Each system must be designed specifically for the waste stream it is intended to treat. These systems can function efficiently if they are maintained properly (i.e., proper cleanouts, working pipes).

The type and location of septic systems are not maintained as a list by the health department. Since it would be impractical to list the systems file by file for this report (time and money would not allow for such an accounting), refer to the Problems Map for an indication of where septic systems are located (areas not shaded in purple). For more specific information contact the East Shore District Health Department at (203)481-4233 (see contact information in Appendix V: Contact Information).

The Sewage Treatment plant is presently undergoing a significant upgrade in its facilities. Part of the upgrade is to handle more capacity and the other part of the upgrade is to improve nitrogen removal. The plant will be upgraded to handle a maximum capacity of 6.9 million gallons, up from the 4.2 million gallon capacity it can now handle. Another upgrade to the system will include denitrification of the treated water to a maximum of 5 mg/L nitrogen in the discharge to Branford Harbor and LIS. The additions and changes to the treatment plant include a new pretreatment building, new primary settling tanks, secondary clarifiers and processing building and the addition of a new truck loading building that will greatly reduce many of the odors associated with the plant. The application process is still on-going but is expected to be complete within the next few months. Work on the treatment plant is expected to continue through 2003.

Hazardous Waste Sites
Although there are probably many smaller hazardous waste sites around Town (i.e., forgotten or buried oil drums) the extent of their presence is unknown. At present there are only a few dozen known hazardous waste sites around Town (Figure 14). These vary in size and material from the heavy metals contamination at the old MIF (Malleable Iron Fittings Co.) site located near the Town's railroad station to dust (fines) removal from crushed trap rock at the Tilcon (New Haven Trap Rock) shipping facility on Juniper Point. Table 7 has a listing of the known point hazardous waste sites in Town. As one can see, this list is far from being complete. For example, the database does not list Nutmeg Steel off Elm Street, an industrial site contaminated with heavy metals and asbestos from their steel operations over the last half-century or so. In the future, it is recommended that money be obtained to conduct a full survey of the Town's brown fields and other contaminated sites and that the database be upgraded and maintained.

There are no records as to pesticide or herbicide use around Town. The use of these chemicals are on an individual basis and can vary from use of a pesticide on rose bushes to broadcast spraying of these chemicals on golf course fairways (information on amounts are not available to the public). Many of the present class of chemical pesticides and herbicides are less persistent than those of years ago. For example, any land that was farmed (particularly orchards) during the 1950s and 1960s probably had DDT applied to the soils. These chemicals are very persistent and can still be detected today. For more information on pesticides and herbicides, contact municipal, state or federal agencies directly (see Appendix V: Contact Information).


Flood hazard sites are defined here as all areas within the 100 year floodway and the wave action zone along the coast (Figure 15). Flooding in these areas will vary depending on a number of factors including density of development, function of the storm water drainage system, maintenance of the storm water drainage system, tide height during the storm and relative elevations of the drain and high tide, among others. Although any structure located within the floodway has the potential for flood damage, there are some areas where poor drainage design creates chronic problems. For example, many of the railroad underpasses flood on a regular basis including the Route 1 underpass and particularly those along Route 146 at Montowese Street and a smaller pass at the head of Indian Neck Avenue near the railroad station. One of the most impacted watersheds in Town is the Mill Creek system (see below). Extensive development throughout the watershed has created downstream flooding on even minor storms, particularly when they occur at high tide. This can often be seen as flooding across Maple Street. Flooding used to be common behind the High School, however, much of that problem was mitigated recently with improvements to the grounds and ball fields.

Figure 15 shows the main bodies of water and the 100-year floodway. Any structure located within the floodway does have the potential to flood, although most structures are designed at an elevation that should minimize the damage during the 100 year storm. Although Figure 15 also includes the 500-year storm floodway, the Town does not regulate these events and structures are not required to protect themselves from damage during these storms. The 500-year floodway also includes all 100-year floodways and wetland systems down-gradient. The maps presented here are meant for informational purposes and cannot be used to judge flooding at any one site. Any individual wanting to know more about the potential for flooding on their property should visit Town Hall and study the flood maps on file.

Flood hazards are intensified by development (Table 8). Although elevation plays a role, the addition of impervious surface to a watershed increases flows and changes hydrographs for the area. Thus, a structure that appears to be out of harms way based on elevation can still experience damage during flood events due to two main problems; (1) the water cannot drain off of the landscape properly or (2) it drains so fast from the upper reaches that the downstream levels of water are artificially driven upward and the flood extends beyond the known floodway. Figure 16 shows the extent of impervious surfaces in Town. If we use the Mill Creek basin (Figure 17: Impervious Surfaces Mill Creek) as an example (shading on Figure 16 and Figure 17), about 28% of the watershed is covered with pavement or rooftop of some kind. This means that water from that 28% of the land is almost immediately added to the drainage ways on the landscape. Channels and culverts that were designed to carry a certain amount of water over a specific amount of time are now carrying more water in less amount of time. The result is that flooding is now common within the watershed, even on smaller storm events that should not be a problem. Attempts to retain the water onsite are now just being added to site plans. Walmart has retention under its parking lot and all new commercial construction in the basin will be required to provide similar engineering practices. Although the Mill Creek is just one example, this problem is repeated throughout the area (i.e., Farm River along the East Haven border).

Out along the coast, besides flooding, wave action is also a problem, particularly during high winds and storms that track northward across the LIS. This wave action can increase erosion and place strain on flood control devices that are normally there to protect inland areas from flooding. The amount of impact wave action will have on a property will be directly proportional to how open the site is to the Sound or harbor areas and the elevation of the site above sea level.

Although the flood maps are able to determine the potential for flooding, it is important to consider that much of Branford is situated along the coast. At present, Connecticut (and the rest of the east coast of the US) is in a period of accelerated sea level rise. Conservative estimates place the rate of rise at, at least, 6 inches in the next 30 to 50 years. This 6-inch rise in sea level translates to much more than 6 inches of water throughout the Town. As the sea level rises, coastal marshes that act as sponges on the landscape, will begin to disappear since they cannot transgress landward due to the intensity of development along much of the coast (Orson 1996) (our present coastal regulations only leave a 25-foot setback for development and the marsh system will not be able to maintain its habitat as it rolls closer to people's backyards). The loss of these natural sponges will allow more water to make its way onto the upland during a storm. In addition, the increased relative sea levels will significantly reduce drainage off of the upland (particularly at high tide) and, when combined with increased amounts of water, will greatly magnify the impacts of storms on the Town. As sea level rises, wave action will also move further inland, (rate depends on slope of the land) and erosion may be experienced in areas that have never experienced it in the past. Ground water tables will also be forced upward and storm drains, dry wells and septic systems that have been designed using today's standards will become less and less effective. House foundations that are within of a foot of the present water table can expect to see increased basement flooding and damage due to high water tables. Unfortunately, sea level rise is not considered in any of the Town's or State's coastal or inland regulations and as more development occurs, more problems will arise in the future.

Underground Storage Tanks (UST)
Underground storage tanks (UST) have the potential to cause significant damage to underground water resources if they begin to fail. Often times the failure of a UST is not found until a significant pollution event has occurred. This makes this resource one of the most potentially harmful problems on a site-to-site basis and one that is important to the Town.

Unfortunately, the Town does not have or maintain records of the UST within its borders. When most UST were installed, no record of their installation or capacity was required. At present only new UST are permitted and recorded by the Building and Engineering Department and only those that have been removed are listed with the Fire Department. Neither department keeps a tally or record of these USTs except on a file-by-file basis. The budget for this NRI does not provide funds to sift through the records and tabulate the USTs in Town. For more information pertaining to specific sites, contact the Fire Department at (203)488-7266 for UST that have been removed and the Building and Engineering Department at (203)488-1651 for new installations.