Monday, August 08, 2005

Bridgeport is Making Great Progress on its Sewage Plant Improvement Project

As water quality gets worse and worse in Long Island Sound this summer, it's heartening to see that one of the cities that used to be considered among the worst polluters is making serious improvements to its sewage system. Bridgeport has spent $96 million on nitrogen removal and a general upgrade, and is also starting to separate its combined sewers.

Nitrogen of course is the nutrient that triggers hypoxia -- the drop in dissolved oxygen levels in the western half of the Sound that results in, at best, severely degraded habitat and at worst dead fish. Pathogens in the overflow from Combined sewers result in closed beaches and closed shellfish beds.

Twenty years ago, when the extent of the Sound's hypoxia problem was first becoming known, people would shake their head in despair because poorer cities like Bridgeport, they said, would never be able to afford sewage plant improvements. The Soundkeeper forced the issue in 1986 though by suing Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stratford, and the state of Connecticut made 20 percent of the upgrade money available as a grant and the rest available as a low-interest loan. To fix combined sewers -- which are designed to release raw but diluted sewage into waterways when it rains -- the state grant is 50 percent.

This Connecticut Post article talks about the work in Bridgeport, although as usual with the Connecticut Post the story raises as many questions as it answers.

Meanwhile, dissolved oxygen levels are still dropping in the far western end of the Sound this summer. Officials overseeing the cleanup, which has been going on now for eight years or so, are still saying that we'll see real water quality only over the relatively long term -- maybe another eight years.


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