A Clean Water Victory in Bridgeport!

The partnership between Save the Sound, scientists, and local concerned residents in Bridgeport is paying off, with important wins for clean water! The Bridgeport City Council voted to approve a “Resolution Approving Financing for the Design, Rehabilitation, Upgrading and Construction of Various Renovations and Improvements to the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plants” by a vote of 14-5 at their April 5, 2021 regular Council meeting.

Ellen Thomas, professor in marine science at Wesleyan and Yale; Joop Varekamp, professor in marine science at Wesleyan and Vice-Chair of Save the Sound’s Board; and their grad student out on the water collecting samples to look at long term effects of low oxygen levels on Sound-floor organisms.

The estimated $395 million Wastewater Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) infrastructure improvement project at the West End Wastewater Treatment Plant is the single-largest Clean Water Act bonding project that the City Council has approved in the history of Bridgeport. The improvements will reduce the high levels of nitrogen discharged into Long Island Sound and other waterways. In addition, upgrades and design improvements of the West End Wastewater Treatment Plant will increase capacity from 80 million gallons per day to 200 million gallons per day, drastically reducing the number of bypass events and combined sewer overflows each year due to heavy rainfall. These upgrades will also make it possible for the City of Bridgeport to satisfy CT DEEP requirements and ensure continuous operation of the plant while improving sustainability.

This resolution is a necessary step in acquiring funding for the plant upgrades through the Clean Water Fund administered by DEEP. The plant will increase in size which will eliminate 50% of the Combined Sewer Outflow (CSO) events, while further upgrades to the collection system will occur over several years to fully eliminate CSOs—adding Black Rock Harbor to the list of Connecticut’s sewage free waters.

Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim stated, “This WPCA project will provide a much-needed upgrade for our city infrastructure, it will also result in immediate jobs, and residents will experience better quality of our waters and environment.  While there are many benefits to this project moving forward, we are seeking every avenue to ensure that the cost does not put an undue burden on ratepayers.” The Connecticut federal delegation has been very supportive of identifying federal infrastructure funds to minimize cost increases to rate payers.

Pete Spain and Kevin Blagys, members of Save the Sound’s resident action team in Bridgeport, testified in favor of passing the resolution. Pete, along with Captain’s Cove Marina, has been instrumental in assisting Save the Sound’s work addressing water quality in Black Rock Harbor where the wastewater treatment plants are located. Mr. Spain urged everyone to vote in favor regarding Agenda Item 24-20 for upgrading the sewer processing plants. He noted that there have been three major positives coalescing; new technical leadership at the WPCA, excellent political leadership, and likely the largest pool of funding sources available to do this project in many years.

Kevin, owner of KB Services, is a commercial diver out of Black Rock Harbor and has been a partner of Save the Sound’s Unified Water Study (UWS) in the harbor. The UWS, along with the Bridgeport Aquaculture School, are about to embark on their third season measuring water quality in Black Rock Harbor. Mr. Blagys has been diving in Captain’s Cove for many years and can testify about the nitrogen levels in the Harbor, adding that, during the summer, the Harbor becomes hypoxic causing fish and horseshoe crabs to die off. He also noted that the proposed plan is a good one, but there is a discharge pipe that still exists directly in Black Rock Harbor. The new treatment plants will reduce the number of bypass events.

The Bridgeport WPCA completed their “facilities plan” on time with their Long Term Control Plan schedule in November of 2020. This plan is the first step towards upgrading, along with a hydraulic study of the full system. The Facilities Plan is under review through the CT CEPA process and available to the public. The next step will be design and then Construction will begin in the next couple of years. State legislators and the Clean Water Division at CT DEEP have all been working diligently to make this project happen and finally bring clear water back to Black Rock Harbor. Save the Sound wants the harbor water to return to the quality it had on moonless nights when Washington’s spies were rowing across the Sound from Long Island while reporting on British troop movements. The people of Bridgeport deserve clean water to swim and clean fish and seafood to eat in their own back yard.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

04.15.2021 — Click here for Mayor Ganim’s press release

04.05.2021 — Click here for the Bridgeport Council meeting minutes

03.27.2021 — Click here to watch the WPCA Workshop

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