DEEP: 1986 - Connecticut’s Clean Water Fund Created

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Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years

Connecticut’s Clean Water Fund Created
(1986)

Background

Connecticut’s Clean Water Fund (CWF) was created to provide financial assistance to municipalities for planning, design and construction of wastewater treatment – sewage facilities. Through the CWF, the state provides combined grants which vary from 20% - 55% of total project costs depending on the type of project, and low interest loans to finance municipal sewage treatment and collection system upgrades. The CWF is a nationally recognized program administered by the Office of the Treasurer and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that provides grants and low interest loans to municipalities for wastewater infrastructure improvement projects.

The CWF replaced the state and federal grant programs that had existed since the 1950s. After the adoption of Connecticut’s Clean Water Act in 1967, new stringent wastewater treatment regulations were developed for municipal sewage treatment plants and industrial discharges. By 1973, Connecticut became one of the first states in the country with formally delegated authority to administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program (NPDES permits) established by US EPA. As a result, the first round of NPDES permits were issued in 1974 and the first major municipal facilities grant was awarded to Norwalk for correction of combined sewer overflows. Connecticut was delegated the authority, in 1979, to administer the Federal Sewerage Construction Grants Program under section 201 of the federal Clean Water Act.

Today, state funds are combined with federal EPA contributed "State Revolving Fund" (SRF) grants to create the CWF. Since 1986, more than $2 billion has been awarded in grants and loans toward wastewater treatment plant expansions and upgrades, combined sewer overflow (CSO) separation projects, and extensions of sanitary sewers, helping to improve the quality of treated effluent and eliminate untreated sewage discharges to our state’s waters. Continued reductions and improvements are needed to improve trends in water quality.

Throughout Connecticut, there are approximately 120 municipalities that are served by publicly owned sewage systems. Because these existing systems have a typical design life of 20 years, there is a recurring need to evaluate and update treatment plants so they continue to meet the minimum national standards of secondary treatment. In addition, most municipalities must upgrade their plants to meet higher levels of treatment, called advanced treatment, in order to meet specific water quality goals in the receiving waters. Other needs include correction of combined sewer overflows, hydraulic expansion of the plants, sewer system expansion to meet growth needs and address community pollution problems, and developing decentralized wastewater management alternatives to address problem areas of septic system failures where conventional sewers are not a feasible solution.

Accomplishments:

Since the passage of Connecticut's Clean Water Act in 1967, all sewage treatment plants have been brought up to the level of secondary treatment, with the last facility in New Haven being completed in 1988. Secondary treatment removes approximately 85% of the organic matter in sewage, and the treated waste is disinfected to protect public health. For some rivers that are more heavily affected by treated sewage discharges, e.g., the Quinnipiac, Pequabuck, Still, and upper Naugatuck Rivers, additional treatment providing as much as 95-97% removal, and conversion of toxic ammonium to nitrate or even removal of nitrogen is necessary to meet water quality standards. These Rivers now meet dissolved oxygen standards and ammonium toxicity limits as a result of advanced treatment. Further, Connecticut’s Nitrogen Credit Exchange, established in 2002, has proven to be a cost effective alternative way of implementing nitrogen removal to restore Long Island Sound by trading. The CWF has provided more than $300 million for the nitrogen removal portion of facility improvements at more than 40 Publicly Owned Treatment Works, (POTWs) since the first nitrogen removal project was completed in 1993. These projects represent approximately 20 million pounds of nitrogen removed from the aggregate wastestream annually as of 2009, bringing Connecticut facilities 85% of the way toward the established 2014 nitrogen reduction target.

As a result of these efforts to improve sewage treatment, downstream water quality has improved markedly throughout Connecticut since 1967. In addition, the CWF has created tens of thousands of jobs. DEP estimates it has the potential to create up to 1800 jobs per year.

 
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What You Can Do
 
  • 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.
  • Partner with environmental and civic groups to clean up waterways and beaches. Pick up pet waste and dispose of it in the trash.
  • An improperly working septic system can contaminate ground water flowing to local streams and can pollute surface waters. Inspect septic tanks annually, and pump them out every three to five years.
  • Avoid pouring kitchen grease and solids down your kitchen sink to minimize malfunctioning septic systems and sewer line blockages.
  • Regardless of whether you use a septic system or public sewers, never use your toilet or sink to dispose of toxic chemicals or pharmaceuticals. Sewage treatment systems are not designed to handle these wastes, and disposing of these materials in this way could result in disruption of the treatment system or pollution of the surface waters or ground waters that they discharge into. Instead, take unused pharmaceuticals to a special collection day, or seal up the container properly and dispose of it with your household refuse. For more information, How to Dispose of Prescription Medicines & Over-The-Counter (OTC) Products.