CFE Sues Danbury for Sewage Pollution

The City of Danbury has been releasing raw sewage and other chemicals into local waterbodies for more than five years.


December 14, 2016

CFE Files Suit Against Danbury for Sewage Pollution
Danbury violating Clean Water Act by polluting local waterbodies

NEW HAVEN, CONN. – Connecticut Fund for the Environment and its bi-state program Save the Sound has filed suit against the City of Danbury for violating the federal Clean Water Act. CFE/Save the Sound alleges Danbury has been illegally releasing raw or partially treated sewage into area rivers and streams over the past five years, and exceeding permitted discharge limits for lead, copper, and zinc.

According to state records, from early 2012 to early 2016 Danbury released more than 450,000 gallons of raw sewage into local streams and rivers.

CFE/Save the Sound originally sent Danbury a 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue on September 26, 2016, following an extensive investigation into sewage discharges statewide.

“The 60-Day Notice Period gave the City of Danbury an opportunity to demonstrate commitment to fixing its pollution problems, but unfortunately the city has not shown that it’s taking sufficient action,” said Jack Looney, staff attorney for CFE. “These discharges of raw or partially treated sewage are severe, unacceptable, and illegal under state and federal law. Danbury must make routine and preventative maintenance of its sewage collection system a priority and prepare a detailed plan to get its discharges of untreated sewage and toxic metals under control.

Example of discharge into public waters

CFE/Save the Sound is asking the courts to order Danbury to:

  • Take all steps necessary to eliminate the discharge of sewage and other pollutants at locations not authorized by permit.
  • Permanently cease discharging lead, copper, zinc, and other substances in amounts exceeding permit limits.
  • Pay a civil penalty of up to $37,500 per day, per violation, for all violations of the Clean Water Act occurring after January 12, 2009.

Three additional organizations have also joined the effort. Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, Friends of the Lake, and Rivers Alliance of Connecticut all submitted their own 60-day Notice Letters on December 13. The organizations are expected to join CFE/Save the Sound’s suit after their two-month notice period is up.

Furthermore, based upon new documentation received from the city last week, CFE/Save the Sound attorneys believe there is new evidence for additional discharges not previously reported to the state. These findings will lead to another 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue, to be filed soon.

The city has also repeatedly violated its permits for lead and other metals and for fecal Coliform bacteria. The sewage discharges were into the Still River, Limekiln Brook, Beaver Brook, and Padanaram Brook. The Still River flows into the Housatonic River in New Milford, and then to Long Island Sound. Releases and leaks of sewage pollute waterways with disease-causing bacteria and excessive nitrogen that fuels dead zones in bays, harbors, and Long Island Sound.

CFE/Save the Sound’s ongoing investigation covered the entire state and could result in additional legal action against other municipalities violating the law.

“For nearly 45 years, the Clean Water Act has mandated our nation’s water bodies be made clean and safe. It prohibits the discharge of untreated sewage,” explains Roger Reynolds, legal director for CFE/Save the Sound. “Maintaining infrastructure in good order is a basic responsibility of municipal governments, because neglecting sanitary sewer pipes allows sewage to reach rivers, lakes, and Long Island Sound—and that hurts swimmers, wildlife, public health and the economy.”




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