New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority addressing combined sewer overflows

Jun 4th, 2014 | By | Category: Featured Story, Water

There is an important meeting coming up Thursday, June 5 in New Haven regarding the West River Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Abatement Study.

The meeting is open to the general public and will address the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority (GNHWPCA) hiring the engineering firm CH2M HILL to study the sewer system along the West River.

The goal of the study is to evaluate alternatives and develop recommendations to reduce the frequency, volume and duration of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into the West River.

CSOs occur when the pipelines conveying sanitary sewage and storm water are overwhelmed by heavy rainfall. In order to prevent backups into homes and business when the sewer system does not have enough capacity, excess rain water mixed with sewage overflows into the West River at various controlled points.

The Public Information Meeting is to inform the neighborhood and stakeholders on the recommendations developed as part of this study, as well as the ongoing efforts to reduce CSOs and improve the sewer infrastructure along the West River.

Agenda for the Information Meeting:

  1. General Introduction
  2. Combined Sewer Overflow and Long Term Control Plan Background
  3. West River Memorial Park Historical Timeline and Flows in the Boulevard Trunk Sewer
  4. Reducing Frequency, Volume and Duration of Combined Sewer Overflows into the West River.
    a. Regulator Modifications
    b. Green Infrastructure Improvements
  5. Schedule
  6. Public Comments, Questions and Answers (Opportunities Throughout)

The EPA recommends source control evaluation and implementation as first steps in reducing Combined sewer overflows in cities with combines sewer systems such as New Haven.

What is at stake? How are we going to reduce rainwater getting in the sewer pipe and causing raw sewage flooding out the outfalls when it rains? The wastewater treatment plant (sewer plant) proposes raising rates 40% over the next 5 years to create a cash flow to pay for plant expansion to pump additional rainwater over to East Shore to reduce CSOs.

Their engineering study is GNHWPCA’s effort to address the West River Watershed since it is the most adversely impacted watershed in the city (more than half of the raw sewage released into our waters goes into the West River). The Greater New Haven Water Works Coalition strongly advocated for this as an environmental justice issue; EPA listened and pressured GNHWPCA to do something about this watershed now.

Are there less expensive ways to reduce rainwater in the sewer pipe?

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends source control evaluation and implementation first in order to reduce CSOs.

Nancy K. Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, U.S. EPA described concept of integrated planning as one that brings parties together for a watershed based approach.

“The EPA is also working with municipalities across the country to expand and institutionalize the use of integrated planning that considers a full range of infrastructure alternatives, including ‘green’ infrastructure, so that priority investments are made first, and at the lowest life cycle of cost.” (May 22, 2013 testimony before U.S. House of Representatives).

What are source controls? Basically any method that keeps rainwater from running into the sewer system: rain gardens, bioswales, disconnecting downspouts, green roofs, blue roofs, infiltrators, rain barrels.

Many cities around the USA have already successfully invested in source control; Portland OR, Syracuse, Baltimore, Washington DC, NYC. It’s time for New Haven to embrace this method of dealing with this problem now. We will be able to reduce our cost for pumping rainwater over to East Shore every time it rains. Every gallon kept out of the sewer line reduces raw sewage in the river and saves us money by lowering costs.

The Greater New Haven Water Works Coalition ( advocates for source control evaluation and implementation as FIRST steps in reducing combined sewer overflows in New Haven.


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