Municipal Stormwater Permit Lawsuits

Location: Middletown and Burlington, Connecticut | Status: Active

Location: Redding and Ridgefield, Connecticut | Status: Settled

Summary: Residents throughout Connecticut are living with unhealthy rivers, lakes, and streams, which have been polluted by excess stormwater runoff. Save the Sound filed Clean Water Act Enforcement Actions against Middletown, Burlington, Redding, and Ridgefield, Connecticut for discharging polluted stormwater in violation of their Clean Water Act permits and thereby causing or contributing to unswimmable and unfishable local waterbodies.

To address the impacts of stormwater pollution, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection re-issued a Clean Water Act Municipal Stormwater General Permit in 2017, which required all municipalities of a certain size to protect water quality by, among other things, mapping their systems, eliminating illicit discharges, and reducing impervious surface area.

In spring 2021, Save the Sound investigated Connecticut municipalities’ compliance with Clean Water Act stormwater requirements. Alarmingly, our research showed that municipalities across the state are routinely violating their permits and thereby discharging polluted stormwater that violates federal water quality standards and is making local waters and the Sound unsafe for swimming and aquatic life. Moreover, many of these municipalities were not even taking the most basic steps, such as filing required annual reports to demonstrate whether they were complying with their permits. After informing various municipalities that they were in violation of their permits and illegally polluting local waterways, Save the Sound sought to communicate and work with the municipalities during a 60-day notice period to achieve compliance without a court action. While some responded in a timely manner, expressed their willingness to comply, and took meaningful affirmative action within the 60-day timeframe, others ignored these communications entirely or until it was too late. We brought suit against those municipalities that took no meaningful actions in the 60-day period.

In September 2022, we reached settlements with Redding and Ridgefield in the form of court ordered consent decrees.

In Redding, E. coli and additional unknown pollutants impact both the Little and Norwalk Rivers, negatively affecting recreation as well as habitat for fish, other aquatic life, and surrounding wildlife. Redding agreed to:

  • comply with all requirements of the General Permit, including mapping the Town’s MS4, sampling all stormwater outfalls, and achieving a 2% reduction in its directly connected impervious area; and
  • provide $70,000 to fund a study that will consider the feasibility of future dam removal on the Norwalk River, supporting ongoing work to improve passage for migratory fish from the Sound

In Ridgefield, E. coli, phosphorus, and additional unknown pollutants impact the Norwalk River, Ridgefield Brook, Cooper Pond Brook, Titicus River Sub-Regional Basin, and Mamanasco Lake. This negatively impacts both recreation opportunities for people and habitat for fish, other aquatic, life and surrounding wildlife. Ridgefield agreed to:

  • comply with all requirements of the General Permit, including mapping the Town’s MS4, sampling all stormwater outfalls, and achieving a 2% reduction in its directly connected impervious area; and
  • provide $70,000 for a green infrastructure project that will reduce stormwater runoff to the Great Swamp, where the Norwalk River originates, further benefiting water quality in the Norwalk River watershed

Our suits against Middletown and Burlington are ongoing.

In MiddletownE. coli and additional pollutants are contaminating the Connecticut, Coginchaug, and Mattabesset Rivers; Laurel, Miner, Sawmill, Spruce, and Sumner Brooks; Crystal Lake; and Wadsworth Falls State Park Pond. This is negatively impacting both recreation opportunities for people and habitat for fish, other aquatic life, and surrounding wildlife.

In BurlingtonE. coli negatively impacts recreation in Burlington Brook.

Latest Step: Reached separate collaborative agreements with the towns of Redding and Ridgefield in September 2022.

Next Step: Ongoing discovery and litigation preparation by the remaining parties.

Further Reading:

Action Opportunities:

Last Updated: October 26, 2022


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