DEEP: 2001 - Nitrogen Credit Exchange Program Created and Nitrogen General Permit Issued

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Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years

Nitrogen Credit Exchange Program Created
Nitrogen General Permit Issued
Connecticut identified nutrient pollution as a problem as early as the 1970s and municipal sewage treatment plants were targeted as a first step to reducing nutrient discharges to the waters of the state.  In 1975 the first Waste Load Allocation (WLA) was completed for the Quinnipiac River and required advanced waste water treatment for all treatment plants discharging to the river.  By 1976 CT DEP and EPA had awarded a sewerage facilities grant to Plainville for construction of an advanced wastewater treatment (AWT) facility to remove nitrogen.

The 1987 amendments to the federal Clean Water Act created the National Estuary Program (NEP) and the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) estuary program was created, recognizing the Long Island Sound as an estuary of national significance.  As a result, Connecticut, New York and the federal EPA committed to a partnership to restore and protect the Sound.  A Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) was adopted identifying seven priority areas of concern.  The three primary issues impacting water quality were hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen due to nutrient enrichment), toxicity, and pathogens.  By 1990 the LISS released a “Status Report and Interim Actions for Hypoxia Management” that identified nitrogen reduction as critical to improve dissolved oxygen concentrations in western LIS where hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen) is a major problem.  Over the next ten years Connecticut embarked on a Nitrogen Removal program for the state’s STPs to reduce nutrient pollution to LIS. 
On April 3, 2001 the USEPA approved the Long Island Sound Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).  The plan identified nitrogen as the pollutant most responsible for hypoxic conditions in the Sound and adopted nitrogen reduction targets from Connecticut STPs by 58.5% of 1990 levels as well as call for reductions in nonpoint source loads and point source discharges in the states of the upper LIS watershed.
To assist implementation of the Long Island Sound TMDL, Connecticut passed, on July 6, 2001, Public Act 01-180 enabling the creation of the Nitrogen Credit Exchange program and a state-wide Nitrogen General Permit setting nitrogen discharge Waste Load Allocation goals for 79 sewage treatment plants (STPs) around the state.  In 2007, CT received EPAs first “Blue Ribbon Award” for its nationally recognized Nitrogen Credit Exchange (Trading) Program (NCE).  In 2010, the program was honored by the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA).
Through the Nitrogen Credit Exchange, established in 2002, the program has a goal of reducing nitrogen discharges by 58.5 percent by 2014.  As of 2008 nearly 14 million credits have been bought and sold on the NCE at a total value of nearly $39 million.  The final waste-load allocation (WLA) nitrogen limit to be achieved in 2014 for nitrogen is 9,141 eq lbs/day.  As of June 2009 the nitrogen load average was 11,925 equalized lbs N/day, well below the 2009 target.  Connecticut continues to reach for its goal to reduce nitrogen to LIS and improve water quality for dissolved oxygen in the western Sound.
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What You Can Do To Help
  1. Practice organic lawn and gardening practices.  Compost food and yard waste.  Do not pour fertilizer and animal waste onto the street or into storm drains.
  2. Partner with environmental and civic groups to clean up waterways and beaches.  Pick up pet waste and dispose of in the trash.
  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.