Stormwater runoff is one of the most serious water quality problems facing Long Island Sound. Stormwater, the rainwater that washes over roofs, roads, parking lots, and other hardened surfaces, picks up grit, nitrogen from fertilizers, and petrochemicals, delivers them to our waterways.
A typical natural landscape captures and recycles 90 percent of rainfall into the earth or air. This rain may be soaked up by soils and plants or evaporate. The water that isn’t taken up eventually flows to a stream, pond or the sea. While it may contain some harmful contaminants, most of this runoff can be relatively harmless when naturally filtered through soil and plants. The problems begin in developed landscapes, when too much stormwater runs off impermeable surfaces, dumping high concentrations of pollutants into our waterways, closing beaches, shellfish beds, and contributing to the Sound's dead zone.
Modern development reduces the amount of natural landscape that can absorb rainfall and replaces it with ever-increasing impermeable surfaces. A single square foot of waterproof surface sheds over half a gallon of water in a one-inch rainfall. That means a single house can throw off 1,000 gallons in a big storm.
Impermeable surface in developed areas is increasing rapidly, so more water is being shed during each rainfall. Since 1970, the average home size in America has gone from about 1,500 square feet to more than 2,200 square feet, with larger garages and driveways to handle more cars. Commercial development is also a major culprit in stormwater runoff. An average Wal-Mart occupies 11 acres of land, enough hard surface to generate almost 300,000 gallons of stormwater in a one-inch rainfall.
Ecological damage is shown to begin when 10 percent of a watershed is made impervious. At 25 percent, the damage to water quality and habitat becomes severe
WHAT WE ARE DOING
CFE/Save the Sound works to address stormwater issues through legal and legislative initiatives.
Construction Stormwater Permits
CFE requested a public hearing to challenge a draft construction stormwater general permit issued by DEEP on the grounds that it was not sufficiently protective of water quality, especially with respect to high quality water bodies such as drinking water supplies and cold water trout streams.
The Home Builders Association of CT also challenged the aspects of the permit that applied to endangered species, claiming that DEEP has no jurisdiction to regulate endangered species that are not on state property. CFE is strongly defending the endangered species provisions against the challenge from the Home Builders.
A public hearing was held on June 24th and an adjudicatory hearing is being scheduled.
Read more on our Legal Docket page
Industrial Stormwater General Permits
In 2010, CFE/Save the Sound legally challenged the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s revision of its General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater Associated with Industrial Activity (Industrial General Permit). The permit regulates industrial facilities that discharge stormwater to surface water or to a storm sewer system. CFE/Save the Sound’s challenge resulted in a settlement that included substantially stronger limits for metals and toxics and heightened requirements for public participation.
Wastewater Discharge Violations
CFE/Save the Sound files lawsuits against Connecticut companies that violate their wastewater discharge permits, discharging tons of stormwater and severely polluting our waterways and impacting our water quality.
Read more on our Toxics page
New York State Municipal Stormwater Permits
In January, the New York State Supreme Court ruled in a lawsuit filed by CFE/Save the Sound and other environmental organizations in Connecticut and New York that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s statewide general stormwater permit for municipalities isn’t doing enough to cleanup stormwater runoff across the state. Stormwater pollution from New York municipalities enters Long Island Sound and is a major contributor to the dead zone and high bacteria levels in both Connecticut and New York waters.
The lawsuit was filed in 2010 and alleged that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation failed to reduce polluted urban runoff enough to achieve state water quality standards in New York’s rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal waters in its municipal stormwater general permit. As written, the permit would fail to meet the requirement because in most cases, it would allow runoff pollution to continue at existing levels rather than reducing it.
In the favorable verdict, the court ordered NYDEC to fix several major flaws in the permit to ensure that all Clean Water Act requirements are met.
Legislative Advocacy and Outreach
CFE/Save the Sound advocated at the state legislature for the creation of a stormwater pilot program. Since then, we have worked with the legislature to expand the tools available to the three pilot towns of New Haven, New London, and Norwalk. We have also worked with the City of New Haven to educate residents about the need to enact a local stormwater authority to provide adequate support for stormwater elimination and treatment services.
Additionally, CFE/Save the Sound advocates for Green Infrastructure, a set of techniques that aid in the natural filtering of stormwater by increasing the amount of permeable surface in developed areas. We recently released a Green Infrastructure Feasibility Scan and are working with the Cities of Bridgeport and New Haven to identify areas where GI can be implemented.
Read more on our Green Infrastructure page