Friday, December 02, 2005

Connecticut House Speaker Says Connecticut Cut Long Island Sound Cleanup Funds Because it's Not a "Sexy" Issue

Connecticut’s decision to ease up on its commitment to clean up Long Island Sound finally got some press coverage, with this story in today’s Connecticut Post (click here). It answers a lot of questions and also gives Sound advocates (mainly Leah Lopez Schmaltz, at Save the Sound, but he quotes me as well) a chance to make the case that this is the wrong time to cut back on the clean up.

The bottom line is that the Connecticut Legislature decided that the Sound wasn’t as important as other issues. Here’s what reporter Ed Crowder wrote:

The two-year state budget approved in June provides $140 million in capital funding for the Clean Water Fund in 2006 and 2007. That's only a fraction — 16 percent — of the full $892 million in bonding the DEP sought for the fund's grant and loan programs….

Speaker of the House James A. Amann, D-Milford, said the General Assembly and the governor had to make difficult choices in the last session. Making capital available for the wastewater treatment plant upgrades was a priority early on, he said, but lawmakers ultimately decided there were more urgent needs, including transportation upgrades.

"A sewage treatment plant, it's not a sexy issue, right?" he said.

Amann, who lives at Caswell Cove condominiums near Milford's wastewater treatment plant, said he's personally sold on the need to fund the upgrades and believes the General Assembly should take the issue up in its next session.

"Where I live, it's to the point where I sometimes can't even lift up my windows at night because the stench is so bad," Amann said.

Amann is right when he says a sewage treatment plant isn’t a sexy issue. That attitude points up an important point: if nitrogen reduction is seen merely as a sewage treatment plant issue, it’s probably doomed to failure. It’s got to be perceived as what it really is: a Long Island Sound issue. Nobody cares if sewage plants are improved; but everybody cares that Long Island Sound not be allowed to die, which is essentially what it is facing if the cleanup doesn’t move forward.

Amann also says it’s important because the stench is bad in his neighborhood. I feel sorry for him, of course, but the stench has nothing to do with nitrogen removal. If the Speaker’s understanding of the issue is so poor, we might be in trouble anyway.

Crowder cites me as saying advocates for Long Island Sound need to do a better job getting the word out again that this is a big issue. I’m happy to say I was not misquoted.


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