Summary of the New Haven sewer plant information session

Oct 2nd, 2012 | By | Category: Water

by Aaron Goode,

New Haven needs a larger sewer plant to accommodate more stormwater runoff and to clean up Long Island Sound.

(photo: New Haven Independent)

That was the message of officials from the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority (GNHWPCA) last Thursday in an information session at Nathan Hale School in the Eastshore neighborhood, a few blocks from the sewer authority’s main treatment facility and incinerator.

It was the second information session held by the GNHWPCA to comply with Connecticut’s 2009 environmental justice law, which requires polluting facilities to hold informational meetings in affected neighborhoods in order to receive new or revised permits from the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. A previous informational meeting was held in June at the Sound School.

The GNHWPCA is proposing a $50 million expansion that would increase its capacity to treat stormwater runoff, which is a major source of pollution in waterways around New Haven because of combined sewer overflows (CSOs). The second largest wastewater facility in Connecticut, GNHWPCA’s Eastshore plant already treats about 40 million gallons a day of wastewater, approximately 40% of which is “imported” from towns not included in the sewer authority’s service area, which includes New Haven, Hamden, East Haven, and Woodbridge. The GNHWPCA claims the increased capacity is necessary to “reduce the amount of nitrogen discharged into Long Island Sound, to reduce the discharge of combined sewer overflows and improve the quality of discharged waters. The goal is to improve the water quality of the West River, the Mill River, the Quinnipiac River, New Haven Harbor and ultimately Long Island Sound.”

While acknowledging the importance of addressing the CSO problem, critics of the plan, including the New Haven Environmental Justice Network (NHEJN), have expressed concern that expanding the treatment facility will create an incentive to import and incinerate more wastewater from other parts of the state, resulting in increased air pollution in New Haven. NHEJN also argues that expanding the treatment facility does nothing to address the root causes of stormwater runoff. NHEJN has long been critical of the GNHWPCA’s policies regarding sludge importation and the sewer authority’s failure to seek out alternatives to incineration. The NHEJN website,, has more information about efforts to educate the public about GNHWPCA and demand improvements to its environmental practices since the regionalization of the sewer authority in 2005.

About twenty-five people attended the info session. Many of the questions from community members focused on what GNHWPCA is doing to promote “green infrastructure” — rainbarrel collection systems, rain gardens, bioswales, and other measures that help reduce runoff — as a less expensive, more environmentally friendly approach to stormwater management.

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