Bacteria are prevalent in all aspects of life, and a little bit of bacteria can even be good for you. However, high levels of bacteria, like E. Coli and coliform, in our water are pose threats to the health of humans, wildlife, and our environment.
Connecticut’s beaches, and beaches nationwide, depend on good water quality. When high levels of bacteria are found in our bodies of water, the beaches, and subsequently beachgoers, suffer the consequences and are closed to protect human health.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council's Testing the Waters report, in 2010, high levels of bacteria in our waters accounted for more than 20,000 days of beach closures across the nation. Connecticut experienced 143 days of beach closures due to stormwater runoff, sewage spills and leaks, wildlife, and other sources of contamination. Of the 143 days, 65 percent (93 days) were due to high levels of bacteria in the water.
One of the biggest causes of bacteria in our water, and subsequent beach closings, are antiquated sewage treatment systems, like combined sewer systems.
COMBINED SEWER SYSTEMS AND OVERFLOWS
The appearance of bacteria in our waters is often the result of sewer overflows (CSOs), the overflow of untreated water from combined sewer systems (CSSs) that collect rainwater runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipe.
These overflows are major issues in municipalities in Connecticut like Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, and Norwich. Sewage overflows occur during periods of heavy rain or snow when the wastewater volume exceeds the capacity of the sewer system or treatment plant and untreated wastewater is discharged.
The overflow of this raw sewage is a danger to public health and limits the use of our beaches and shellfish beds.
WHAT WE ARE DOING
CFE/Save the Sound works to address bacteria in our waters through lobbying for Clean Water Funding and municipal advocacy.
Over the past several years, CFE/Save the Sound has fought to ensure that there are adequate levels of funding available in the state’s Clean Water Fund for use for sewage treatment projects. Monies from the Clean Water Fund are available for municipalities to use for projects to upgrade and separate their sewer systems. Through CFE/Save the Sound’s hard work, the state has committed $659 million in bonding for 2012 to 2013 for these projects.
City of Bridgeport
CFE/Save the Sound is currently working with the City of Bridgeport to address its sewer overflow issues. We recently issued a Clean Water Act 60 day notice of violation to Bridgeport for failure to correct its combined system raw sewage overflow problem. As a result of our notice, DEEP issued a consent order against Bridgeport, requiring them to take measures to address the problem.
Bridgeport has stayed on the schedule set out in the consent order and a Long Term Control Plan has been submitted and we are in the process of reviewing it.
CFE/Save the Sound is currently working with DEEP and the EPA to incorporate green infrastructure, shorten the time frame, and approve the control plan so it will be legally enforceable.
In addition to working with Bridgeport to address its sewer overflow issues, CFE/Save the Sound recently released a scan of neighborhoods in Bridgeport and New Haven to identify the feasibility of implementing green infrastructure techniques in the two cities.