DEEP: 1973 - Connecticut's Water Quality Standards (WQS) Revised

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Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years

Connecticut's Water Quality Standards (WQS) Revised
Connecticut has a proud and lengthy history as a national leader in water quality management.

As early as the late 1800s, the Connecticut General Assembly recognized the need to stop further pollution of our surface waters.  With the continued degradation of our state’s water bodies, laws were enacted in 1925 to create a State Water Commission.  In 1965, concern over water quality led then Governor John Dempsey to appoint a 100-member Clean Water Task Force to investigate the condition of Connecticut’s waters and make recommendations.  In 1967 Connecticut’s Clean Water Act was passed, inaugurating the state’s modern water pollution control program and in 1970 the Connecticut Water Quality Standards were first approved by the federal government.  By the time the Department of Environmental Protection was created, in 1971, Congress had begun writing the federal legislation for the first national Clean Water Act – using Connecticut’s Clean Water Act as a guide.

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (WPCA), enacted in 1972, was the nation’s first modern, comprehensive water pollution law.  The WPCA called for the elimination of all discharges to the nation’s waters and mandated planning, regulation and enforcement to improve water quality.  In 1973, revisions were made to Connecticut’s law to bring us into conformity with the new federal requirements.
The Connecticut Water Quality Standards (WQS) provide the foundation for water quality protection programs in Connecticut.  The standards establish the potential uses for water resources and identify environmental conditions necessary to support these uses.  Typical uses for water resources include drinking water supply, habitat for fish and wildlife, assimilation of water discharges and recreational opportunities such as fishing and swimming.  The WQS include scientific and technical standards and criteria to support these uses as well as policy statements to guide the management of water resources in the state and activities that can affect these resources.  In addition to the federally mandated standards for surface water resources, Connecticut has established standards for groundwater resources, recognizing that groundwater is an integral component of the aquatic resources in our state.

The WQS continue to be updated with new science and policies as additional information becomes available and our understanding of water quality related issues improves.  Public input into the Water Quality Standards is an integral component of such updates and provides an opportunity for the public to become involved in the protection and management of Connecticut’s water resources.

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What you can do to help
  1. Landscape in ways not harmful to the plants and animals living near streams and lakes. Use native vegetation that provides habitat for other species. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients. Use a soil test kit to determine the amount of fertilizer needed. Learn how to practice environmentally sound gardening.
  2. Conserve water at home and in the office to reduce the volume of waste water that must be treated by a sewage treatment plant or septic system. This will increase the efficiency of treatment and save you money.
  3. An improperly working septic system can contaminate ground water flowing to local streams and can pollute surface waters. Inspect septic tanks annually, and pump out every three to five years. Avoid pouring kitchen grease and solids down your kitchen sink to minimize malfunctioning septic systems.
  4. Properly dispose of the toxic products that you use.  Never pour motor oil or other auto fluids down a drain or sewer or discard them with the trash (it is against the law!).  Municipal recycling stations accept motor oil for recycling.  Some service stations will accept brake and transmission fluids and antifreeze; if not, save these in separate containers for local collection. Many counties and municipalities have hazardous waste collection days. Call your local waste or sanitation department for a schedule.
  5. Participate in local river and stream clean-up days to pick up litter and trash discarded along our road ways and water bodies.
  6. Learn about the environment in the town in which you live and participate in the activities of local watershed protection organization. 
  7. Participate in policy decisions and attend public meetings, such as your local planning and zoning, conservation, or wetlands commission meetings.  Speak out on local issues that can have ramifications for your town and in streams, rivers, lakes, and Long Island Sound.