Legislators and advocates call for water protections on World Water Day

Hartford—Calling clean water “a human right” and “a gift of life,” state legislators and clean water advocates today called for the protection of our groundwater, rivers and streams, and Long Island Sound and addressed upcoming water-related legislation on road salts, well testing, and stormwater while celebrating World Water Day.

“We have an important responsibility to preserve the purity and safety of clean water for all to enjoy,” said State Senator Tony Hwang. “Laws are important as a part of policy, but every individual should be aware of the value of clean water and engaged in protecting our waterways. This is not only a ‘feel good’ type of policy and advocacy. It’s about the sustainability and survival of future generations.”

State Representative Mary Mushinsky and State Senator Tony Hwang

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg noted several bills currently before the legislature. “Many Connecticut citizens obtain their water from private wells, so we’re considering well testing standards and availability of potable water should a well be contaminated. We’re also looking at guarding against Legionella contamination in nursing homes and other large facilities. And we’re looking to assess the potential water quality impacts of locating solar installations on water supply lands. All these bills reflect the fact that Connecticut values its water resources and does not take them for granted. Our State Water Plan is a remarkable document, a living roadmap for maintaining and improving our water resources for a variety of uses. It’s up to us to make its vision our reality.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the effects of which can be seen throughout Connecticut, said State Representative Mary Mushinsky. Pointing to more swimmable waterways and rebounding populations of bald eagles, fish, seals, osprey, and other wildlife, she said, “This has all happened in the 50 years since the Clean Water Act. The Quinnipiac River, for example, has gone from being an open sewer to a place you can actually swim on a dry day. It’s a remarkable comeback story resulting from regulation, improved technologies, and community will power.” Referring to a bill on stormwater authorities, a mechanism for funding local clean water improvements, Mushinsky underscored the need for widespread cooperation. “Dirty water can come from any landscape. It doesn’t matter if it’s owned by a municipality or a business or a nonprofit or an individual—it’s still dirty stormwater, so we each need to do our part to clean it up.”

Anne Hulick, state director of Clean Water Action and a registered nurse, noted the importance of clean water to public health. “As a nurse, I always recognized the public health necessity of access to clean water, but I didn’t really think much about groundwater. It’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. I’ve learned how important it is to protect groundwater from contamination like PFAS, nitrates, fertilizer, and other toxic chemicals. We must protect our groundwater resources as a critical public health issue.”

Soundkeeper Bill Lucey of Save the Sound spoke in support of SB240, which addresses theuse of road salt, a groundwater contaminant. “Road salt is an increasing problem when it leaches into our streams and groundwater. Some streams have seen pulses of salinity levels far saltier than seawater, and many wells are becoming contaminated with various road salt mixtures. We need to adopt modern road salting practices which, while not ending the problem, will greatly reduce it.” Lucey also expressed confidence in the future of water protection. “The Clean Water Act has made it through 50 years of rough and tumble politics, and it’s even stronger than it was before. We look forward to making it even better in the future.”

World Water Day events in Connecticut, including a March 21 webinar (view a recording here) and today’s press event, were sponsored by seven environmental organizations: Clean Water Action, CT Land Conservation Council, CT League of Conservation Voters, CT River Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, and Save the Sound. For more information on threats to groundwater and actions people can take to protect our water, visit https://www.ourwaterct.org/.

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