NORTH BRANFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Regional Water Authority (RWA) is warning of a threat to the quality of your drinking water. It comes from illegal dirt bikes and ATVs riding on RWA’s property. The water company is now seeking the public’s help cracking down on the trespassers.
A couple was hiking on Regional Water Authority property with a permit when ATVs and dirt bikes came racing down the trail. The couple captured the illegal activity on video and shared it with police. Those vehicles are not allowed on any RWA land.
“They just ride too fast, I’m afraid, for safety concerns of people who have a permit and are hiking with their family,” said Capt. Paul Ruggiero of the Regional Water Authority Police Dept. “It’s dangerous. It’s very dangerous.”
Ruggiero knows because he had his own run-in back in December 2020. Several dirt bikes and an off-road vehicle called a Polaris RZR came right at him on a trail in North Branford. It was all caught on his cruiser’s dash cam.
“The RZR and I almost hit head-on,” Ruggiero said. “They made it around me and exited the property wherever they came in from .”
It is one thing to impact the peace and quiet of the trails and the safety of the people enjoying them, but those vehicles can also affect your drinking water. As those bikes and ATVs speed through the hills around the reservoirs, they tear up the ground and cause erosion.
“When precipitation events occur thereafter, it’s drawing that erosion into our reservoirs and surface water supplies, and it may cause negative water quality impacts in the future,” explained RWA Environmental Planning Manager Steve Vitko.
In other words, dirt and animal feces wash down into the water from the taps of some 430,000 customers. The RWA owns 27,000 acres, so Ruggiero and his three officers can’t patrol all of it. They do put up gates. Then the bikes go around the gates, so they put up rocks, logs, fences, anything to make riding the trails more difficult. They want the help of anyone who spots illegal vehicles on water company property.
“They should call the Regional Water Authority Police Department, and we will send an officer out to investigate it and see what’s going on,” Ruggiero said.
If it’s safe, he says, also try to take video of the offenders as proof of what happened.