September Clean Water Update: Happy National Estuaries Week

Sunrise on City Island – a perfect sendoff to Summer 2022.

Each Wednesday, we bring you an update from one of our program areas. Read other recent updates on our blog: LegalClimate & ResiliencyProtected Lands and Ecological Restoration

Not to step on the toes of National Ballroom Dance Week or steal the buzz from International Go-Kart Week. But here in Long Island Sound territory, our focus is reserved for National Estuaries Week (Sept. 17-24), which we’re celebrating with a supersized update of clean water news.

Follow us on social media throughout #EstuariesWeek, as we’ll be sharing trivia and tidbits about our favorite estuary (#Bestuary?). For instance . . .

Did you know what graced the cover of Sports Illustrated before Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali, before Larry Bird, Mine That Bird, Big Bird, or any sports legend over the last 68 years?

Long Island Sound.

Richard Meek’s photo on the cover of the fourth issue of Sports Illustrated Sept. 6, 1954 – captured the action of an Off Soundings Club regatta that summer in the Sound, specifically (according to the original cover blurb on the Contents page) Gib Wolfe aboard his 45-foot sloop, White Lie.

And don’t forget . . . all donations to Save the Sound made during National Estuaries Week will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Jackson Ohana Foundation, up to $2,500. All gifts made at the Norwalk Boat Show this weekend also will be included in this special match!

A Big Deal for Clean Water

Currently, more than 17 miles of the Norwalk River are so severely impaired by stormwater pollution that they fail to meet the standards of the Clean Water Act. The health of the river, one of several major waterways that flows into Long Island Sound, directly impacts clean water, healthy aquatic life, and thriving coastal ecosystems in and on the Sound.

A cleaner Norwalk River will be the result of collaborative agreements reached with the neighboring Connecticut towns of Ridgefield and Redding following lawsuits Save the Sound filed under the Clean Water Act. The proposed agreements were filed by Save the Sound and the towns with the Federal District Court and are subject to a 45-day review period by the U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency.

Read more about this important development.

Good news in Redding and Ridgefield, CT, where collaborative agreements will lead to action combatting stormwater pollution – the fastest-growing major cause of water pollution today.

Sounds Like a Plan

In early September, our Soundkeeper team went out sampling with representatives from the Black Rock Harbor Study and Ash Creek Conservation Association to check a combined sewer overflow (CSO) pipe the groups noticed discharging into the Pequonnock River in Bridgeport, CT. Soundkeeper Associate Emma DeLoughry collected several samples to test for pathogen indicator bacteria, which were processed at our Larchmont, NY, lab and found to be at the highest possible levels for Enterococcus – indicative of untreated sewage entering the water.

We alerted the Bridgeport Water Pollution Control Authority of the results, which took immediate action, sending out a crew and calling a contractor to address the issue.

A problem got reported, investigated, and resolved – a textbook example of everything going according to plan when we all work together to protect the public and Long Island Sound! We appreciate the Black Rock Harbor Study & Ash Creek Conservation Association for calling this to our attention, and the Bridgeport Water Pollution Control Authority for its responsiveness.

Soundkeeper Associate Emma DeLoughry (left) investigates a pollution report 
from Ash Creek Conservation Association in Bridgeport, CT.

Team Building

David P. Ansel, an environmentalist and corporate attorney, has joined our team as Regional Director of Water Protection. David will lead our Sound-wide healthy waters initiatives and work with our water quality team to restore rivers, lakes, and harbors in the Long Island Sound watershed.

“I feel very strongly about the burden that we’re putting on Long Island Sound and the whole planet,” said David, who spent 30 years at the law firms Thacher Proffitt & Wood and Loeb & Loeb. “We’re at a critical tipping point.”

David has served on the Subcommittee for Environmental Law of the New York City Bar Association, the Board of Riverkeeper, and as a trustee at Waterkeeper Alliance. He currently sits on the Board of the Westchester Land Trust.

David’s arrival creates some expanded opportunities and responsibilities for the leaders of our water quality team:

  • Elena Colon will become our laboratory manager, supervising the development, expansion, and operation of the John & Daria Barry Water Quality Lab in Larchmont.
  • Peter Linderoth, our director of water quality, will expand his portfolio to include more coalition development and advocacy. He will oversee the creation and rollout of our biennial Long Island Sound Report Card, which will be released in October.
  • Long Island Soundkeeper Bill Lucey will officially take on the role of project innovation, identifying new hands-on projects. His existing role as spokesperson will expand.

We welcome David, congratulate Elena, Peter, and Bill, and also thank our team of 19 volunteers and two rock star summer interns (Nathaniel Goetz, Bernadette Russo) who helped our staff collect and analyze 711 samples for fecal indicator bacteria over the 12 weeks of our seasonal water quality monitoring program in western Long Island Sound.

Meet David P. Ansel, our new Regional Director of Water Protection.

Open for Business

Three weeks ago, Peter Linderoth led a hands-on training session for volunteers, covering field procedures and lab methods. Now, the new lab is ready to start processing water samples from eastern Connecticut.

The facility in Hamden, CT, is run by the Southwest Conservation District and its executive director, Chris Sullivan. Funding for the lab was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through Clean Water Act grants administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Peter Linderoth (center) led a training session at Shepard Brook, which runs adjacent to the SWCD’s new lab facility in Hamden, CT.

In Case You Missed It . . .

  • Phase One of our eelgrass restoration project is complete. Check out our video, produced by Soundkeeper Associate Emma DeLoughry with support from 11th Hour Racing, on the Seed Collection stage of the initiative.
  • The Mystery of the Missing Fish continues. Check out “Where Did 300,000 Fish Go?” by Melissa Pappas that appeared in the September issue of WindCheck magazine.
  • The Clean Water Act turns 50 years old on Oct. 18. Waterkeeper Alliance is calling on the federal government to fully implement this key piece in the fight for drinkable, fishable, swimmable waters across the country. “Your Long Island Soundkeeper program is part of an international waterkeeper movement that utilizes water protection laws of their respective nations. The Clean Water Act is the primary tool of the 172 waterkeeper groups currently operating in the U.S.,” said Soundkeeper Bill Lucey.
Read our blog to learn more about the vital role eelgrass plays in a healthy aquatic ecosystem and understand why Rob Vasiluth of SAVE Environmental calls it “a miracle plant.”

Clean Water is on the Ballot in New York

On Nov. 8, New Yorkers will have a chance to vote on the Environmental Bond Act, a $4.2 billion investment in New York’s environmental infrastructure.

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