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Torrington to upgrade sewer system means cleaner Naugatuck River and Long Island Sound

From CT DEEP News Clips (9-22-14)

Sewer plant upgrade part of Sound strategy –By Alec Johnson/Republican American

In November, voters of Torrington can think of a day at the beach when they head to the polls.

That's because a vote on a $52 million upgrade to that city's sewer plant is directly related to new laws and regulations concerning the protection of Long Island Sound.

Torrington's need for a new sewer plant isn't exclusively in the interest of the Sound's water quality — the city hasn't improved the circa 1934 plant in 20 years — but it is among examples statewide of how municipalities are changing practices for the protection of the state's coastline.

Torrington's sewer improvements include lining 50,000 feet of sewer pipes to stop groundwater from seeping in and overloading the plant, which has a capacity to treat 7 million gallons a day before flowing into the Naugatuck River and ultimately the Sound.

A report issued this month suggests such changes are improving the Sound's water quality.

"The Sound was just about dead," said Curt Johnson, executive director of Save the Sound. "The oxygen conditions were so horrible 20 years ago that we had a summer ... when there were lobsters literally crawling out of the water because there was no oxygen."

Connecticut's coast was so nasty children dared each other to dip their arms into the murky Long Island Sound. Along the coast algae grew rampantly, fueled by high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the water, and then choked itself out and died.

In 1994, the federal government, New York, Connecticut and nonprofit groups began serious efforts to reduce nitrogen levels in the sound by regulating the amounts that sewage treatment plants are allowed to release into the watershed. With billions of federal, state and local dollars spent since upgrades to sewer systems began about 2001, activists and scientists say efforts are working, but there is a long way to go before the Sound will be considered pristine.

A Long Island Sound Study release this month was an update to its original Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Sound. The 78-page document calls for continued investments for clean water.

Nitrogen was targeted early as it is a driver for low oxygen, or hypoxia, which kills aquatic life.

Raymond Drew, superintendent of Torrington's Water Pollution Control Authority, said nitrogen is naturally in most sewage that comes into the plant.

It comes from groundwater that has run through fertilizer and it is a natural waste product of human urine, which is mostly ammonia, nitrogen and hydrogen.

IN CONNECTICUT, 53 OF 79 SEWER PLANTS, as of 2013, have been upgraded to remove nitrogen, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, at a cost of more than $330 million in Clean Water Fund grants. That does not count the municipal portion of spending. In Torrington, where the $52 million upgrade is planned, the WPCA and city are expected to pay for $40 million of the project with the balance coming in Clean Water Fund Grants.

Another seven sewer plants in the state are expected to be upgraded by the end of 2018, bringing the clean water funding to $450 million.

Dennis J. Greci, supervising sanitary engineer of the DEEP Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse, said Connecticut has met goals set by the Environmental Protection Agency. By 2014 the state had an allowance of 9,141 equalized pounds of nitrogen effluent per day, but it reached 8,851 pounds last year.

Greci said the state has been working on nitrogen removal for 20 years. It was identified much earlier as a serious factor for Long Island Sound but, since that time, phosphorous removal has also been added because it is a threat to inland waterways. That effort prompted towns along the Quinnipiac River to lobby for higher limits and more time to correct their systems, citing the hundreds of millions of dollars required. Meriden, Wallingford and Southington successfully negotiated more time.

JOHNSON SAID WATERBURY WAS among the first in the state to upgrade its sewer system, which flows into the Naugatuck River.

"If we had not done what we have done in terms of the nitrogen, the Sound would be dead now," Johnson said. "It has begun to respond and what is left now is we need to continue the investment."

Johnson said though the water is good for swimming there are more days now than 20 years ago that beaches are closed because of high bacteria levels. He said that although nitrogen has been reduced, other infrastructure, including storm water systems, have not been fixed. That's a problem, because when it rains the heavy water flow enters the sanitary sewer system through the storm system, overwhelming sewer plants. It has led to sewage spills and runoff into Long Island Sound during storms. During Hurricane Sandy, 11 billion gallons of raw sewage flowed into the Sound and Atlantic Ocean from Virginia to Rhode Island.

"There is lots of raw sewage," Johnson said. "We need to continue our investment in sewer infrastructure. The next 10 years is going to be much more about storm water pipes and dealing with storm water."

JOHNSON SAID BRIDGEPORT is undergoing a project to make the city greener. More natural plantings absorb storm water before it enters the sewers are being planted, and cities are also installing parking lots that allow water to seep through, rather than run off.

In Torrington has one such lot was installed on Main Street at the intersection of North Elm last year.

Mark Tedesco, director of the EPA Long Island Sound office, said as the health of the Sound changes, so do perceptions about it. Twenty years ago, people cracked jokes about the Sound being a sewer, and the water was so rank nobody would consider going in.

When beaches are closed now, he said, people ask why, because they had planned a day at the beach.



Steward issues call for help

Steward issues call for help
September 19, 2014 - Beacon Falls
by Luke Marshall, Staff Writer Citizens News— The steward of Toby’s Pond has issued a “desperate call for assistance” to maintain the town-owned pond and area around downtown streets cape..The effects of the lack of attention can be seen at the entrance of Toby’s Pond.

During a recent visit to Toby’s Pond, Minnick pointed out a field between the Naugatuck River and the pond that was overgrown with brush and vines.

“This here is part of the spillway. The way this whole thing is designed, when the river’s water flow gets to a certain height, rather than having it channel along Old Turnpike Road, it’s supposed to come in here and flood this area,” Minnick said.

After flooding the field the water is supposed to run into Toby’s Pond, which ultimately drains back into the Naugatuck River.

“This area is supposed to be maintained to keep the brush off it,” Minnick said.

Minnick says the area can be kept neat by spraying herbicide. However, spraying uses heavy equipment and is a two-man job.



$14.4Million greenway funded

$14.4M greenway funded
Project details must be worked out under tight deadlines
The city asked for $5 million in its TIGER grant application to reconstruct Freight Street with a bicycle path. The project would promote redevelopment of industrial sites and connect bicycle and pedestrian traffic to the train station, downtown and the Naugatuck River.



Workers thinking about environment

From CT DEEP News Clips (9-8-14)

Workers thinking about environment By – Penelope Overton/ Republican American

Safety is No. 1 concern during cleanup of Nova Dye site

WATERBURY — Strict environmental controls put in place for a cleanup of the fire-ravaged Nova Dye factory site seem to be working.

Daily air and water samples have all come back clean, with asbestos and heavy metals limits within federal health and safety guidelines, according to the contractor.

"We're doing everything to be sure neighbors, our own guys, even the river, everybody is safe," said Peter Blonski, project superintendent for Standard Demolition of Trumbull.

Containment methods range from truck and steel wash pits that drain into storage tanks, to building a plastic-lined earth and hay retaining wall on the banks of the Mad River.

It can take two laborers up to half an hour to hose down a single large structural steel beam in the 4-feet deep wash pit, which Blonski calls the "swimming pool."

Standard uses seven asbestos workers, three of whom live in Waterbury, to spray the work zone with water to keep the asbestos fibers from becoming airborne.

The water drains into a 20,000-gallon storage tank that is just about three-quarters full, Blonski said. So far, tests indicate it is safe to be discharged into the city's sewers.

Standard launched the three-month cleanup of 313 Mill St. in June, more than two years after a weeklong fire took down most of the sprawling, vacant factory.



Federal Money to the Housatonic helps the Naugatuck

Reclaiming the river where the money has helped the Housy –By Steve Barlow/Republican American

River redux Money to clean Housatonic River has improved the basin in many ways -
Those who paddle and fish the Housatonic River should within two to five years enjoy access and fish habitats not seen in generations.
The irony does not escape those who have followed the river's history.
For decades, General Electric legally dumped polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, into the watercourse at the company's sprawling factory in Pittsfield, Mass., until 1977. A suspected carcinogen, PCBs were banned in 1979.
The power transformers built there electrified the nation, but the PCBs used as insulating fluid in them left behind a polluted river full of toxic fish.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection estimates that between 1976 and 2005, anglers in Connecticut missed out on more than 600,000 trout harvests from the Housatonic, where catch-and-release is the rule.
As compensation, when GE agreed in 2000 to clean up the river in Pittsfield, the company set aside funds for restoration projects on the Housatonic and its tributaries. In Connecticut, $7.1 million was allocated, a sum that eventually grew to $9 million.
An estimated $4.1 million of the "natural resource damages" grant money has been spent, with $4.8 million earmarked for other projects, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Concord, N.H., which is administering the program. Another $280,000 left will be used for cost overruns and other contingencies, said Molly Sperduto, USFWS biologist. No funding of any other projects is expected.
While you still shouldn't eat what you catch, the Housatonic and other area rivers and streams are now better fisheries than at any time in the past century because of that money. From the state line to Long Island Sound, anglers and boaters enjoy better access to the river, and work is planned and underway to improve conditions for fish.
A total of 201 riverfront acres have been either purchased or preserved through conservation easements in Salisbury, Sharon, Harwinton, New Milford and Newtown. Funds remain available to protect more.

The federal government awarded $7 million in "natural resource damages" in Connecticut as compensation for PCB pollution of the Housatonic River.
An update on where 34 grant-funded projects stand: ... 

9. Harwinton: Campville, "the Forgotten Valley," is set to become a prime fishing spot. The town has used a $42,000 grant to acquire, in two separate purchases, nearly 8 acres of land for fishing access along the Naugatuck River. On one lot still sits the remains of the Hopkins & Alfred clock factory, where vintage shelf clocks were manufactured in the early 1800s. The town hopes to build walking trails on the property for recreational use.
Harwinton has been approved for another $50,000 which will purchase more land along Valley Road as part of the Naugatuck Valley Greenway project.

24. Beacon Falls: When Beacon Falls applied for a grant in 2007, the money was sought to help convert two vacant lots and another lot donated by O&G into a 1-acre riverside park. Riverbend Park opened in 2009, so the $100,000 yet to be received is now targeted for enlarging and enhancing the park.
"The plan is to expand the park by three lots," said Joe Rodrigo, the finance board member who is the project overseer.
The town intends to put in a canoe/kayak launch, add handicapped parking, create two handicapped-accessible boat ramps, remove invasive plants and add handicapped-accessible porta-lets. Rodrigo hopes work can begin next year.

25. Derby: O'Sullivan's Island Peninsula is the last spit of land that separates the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers. The Valley Council of Governments wants to turn it into a fisherman's paradise as Atlantic salmon, walleyed pike and striped bass are plentiful in the surrounding waters.
A $325,000 grant was approved to improve the existing boat ramp, install a handicapped-accessible fishing pier and extend the existing greenway.
The holdup has been the completion of an environmental assessment of the 10.5-acre site. "We already know we have pockets of (contaminated) soil that have to come out," said Arthur Bogen, the council's environmental planner.
He expects the assessment to be done late this fall. The scope of any cleanup would largely determine when the project can be put to bid.

30. Watertown: In 2005, the state ordered the owners of the Old Pin Shop in Oakville to repair their 87-year-old dam on Steele Brook, which holds back a pond full of polluted sediment alongside Route 73.
The worry is that a dam failure would empty the shallow pond and unleash contamination downstream and eventually into the Naugatuck River two miles below.
Maurice Fabiani, whose family owns the dam, has proposed the removal of the spillway, construction of a riprapped channel with fish weirs through the pond and the disposal of about 15,000 cubic yards of sediment. A $700,000 grant was approved for the project, augmenting $600,000 that the Fabianis have pledged.
The project has the necessary state permits and awaits authorization by the Army Corps of Engineers, said Peter Spangenberg, a civil engineer with DEEP. The final grant paperwork should be wrapped up by spring, said Drew Major of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Breaching the dam would reopen 4.6 miles of stream to American shad and sea-run brown trout, among other species. The owners have agreed to donate a portion of the land to the town for a proposed greenway along Steele Brook.

33. Seymour: The Naugatuck River pours over the Tingue Dam downtown, unnoticed by motorists speeding overhead on elevated Route 8. To fish, though, it's the largest and last barrier remaining on the river south of Thomaston.
Construction of a new fish passageway is expected to be completed this month. The $5.4-million project is being paid for with federal and state funds, as well as a $672,000 grant. There are some 60 fishways in the state, but this one will be unique. While the rest are mostly steel and concrete, the Tingue fishway will be a channel of natural rock intended to mimic rapids.
American shad, river herring, sea-run brown trout, sea lamprey and American eel will regain access to nearly 25 miles of river for spawning. Other species also will benefit. "Trout, bass, white suckers, even though they don't have to migrate, they do have to move around. This will let them do that," said Steve Gebhard, supervising fisheries biologist for DEEP. "Minnows and nongame fish can't use other fishways, but even smaller fish will be able to use this one."
The project will create a small park alongside the fishway in the center of town.



Return To The Rivers: Connecticut's Waterways Reflect The State's History

Return To The Rivers: Connecticut's Waterways Reflect The State's History

By STEVE GRANT, Special To The Courant
July 20, 2014

The widely held assumption that Connecticut was complete wilderness when the first European settlers arrived in the early 17th Century is belied by what archaeologists have found along the state's rivers.

"It was not wilderness," said Nicholas Bellantoni, a professor of archaeology at the University of Connecticut and the designated state archaeologist. To be sure, Connecticut essentially was a vast forest in 1600, but along major rivers, especially the ...click here for more information.



Yale’s rowing program ‘Learn to Row’ in Derby concludes for summer

Yale’s rowing program ‘Learn to Row’ in Derby concludes for summer
By Patricia Villers, New Haven Register

Yale University’s Community Rowing Learn to Row programs for children and adults completed their summer sessions Friday at the Gilder Boathouse in Derby. (Patricia Villers — New Haven Register)
Yale University’s Community Rowing Learn to Row programs for children and adults completed their summer sessions Friday at the Gilder Boathouse in Derby. (Patricia Villers — New Haven Register)
DERBY >> The energy and enthusiasm in the air Friday at Yale University’s Gilder Boathouse was contagious.

It was the last day for the summer “Learn to Row” sessions that are part of Yale’s Community Rowing Program for children and adults....

Shelton resident and rowing coach Jamie Goldstein said children from the Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley, Recreation Camp of Derby and schools in New Haven have taken part in the summer program this year. He is a former member of the Springfield College rowing team.

In addition to the sport, the coaches also present a two-hour leadership lesson. “We talk about what makes a leader and what makes a team,” Goldstein said.

Two adult Learn to Row teams, the Bulldogs and Rocket 8, named because the shells they used had eight rowers, lined up in the boathouse and got high fives from the coaches as they ran down to the dock.

Shelton resident Jon Robinson wears several hats during the summer program. He is a rowing coach, lifeguard, and resident photographer. Robinson said he had taken almost 3,000 photos during the four-week session prior to Friday’s finale.

He took Mayor Anita Dugatto and a reporter on a boat on the Housatonic River to observe the rowers. The early morning sun glinted off the calm water as Robinson talked about the sport. He had to interrupt himself several times to talk by radio with other coaches....



The Valley Greenway Guide

The Valley Greenway Guide of trails along the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers in Shelton, Derby, Ansonia and Stratford is now available in Valley town halls, libraries and community centers. Copies are also available from HVA at 860-672-6678 and online at www.hvatoday.org. HVA published this full-color, informative guide with the generous support of Pitney Bowes, Sikorsky and the Valley Community Foundation.

The guide provides an easy reference to the trails, riverwalks, river overlooks and even an historic trolley route through the valley towns. Use the guide to walk, bird, skate, fish and cycle in places close to home. Users can explore miles of riverfront trails and community paths that connect Shelton, Derby, Ansonia and Stratford to the Naugatuck and Housatonic Rivers. The guide includes maps and details about the Shelton Riverwalk, Ansonia Riverwalk, the Bluff Walk, the Derby Greenway, Sikorsky Estuary Walk as well as trails on Birchbank Mountain, the Tahmore Trail and the Derby Ansonia Beltline Trail.

Jack Walsh, Executive Director of Valley United Way, said, “This new guide from HVA is bound to give people an entirely new impression of the incredible transformation underway in our area in developing our rivers and trails as recreational resources for our area. Our rivers and water courses once fueled our industry and economy, and now they are taking on a whole new life as recreational and environmental assets as clearly shown throughout this fantastic new guide.”



Torrington hopes to reclaim riverfront area

From CT DEEP News Clips (7-29-14)

Torrington hopes to reclaim riverfront area – New lot 1st phase of the remediation – By Alec Johnson/Republican-American

TORRINGTON — As the first phase of the remediation of the city's riverfront area off Franklin Street is winding down, city officials now hope to transform an abandoned stretch along the Naugatuck River into usable space.

Factories that flanked the river have long been closed, with buildings on Franklin Street knocked down in 2010 and more buildings on nearby Franklin Drive expected to fall this year. City preservationists last week announced they do not oppose the demolition of the Nidec Building as its deteriorating condition would make it cost-prohibitive to restore.

As the space along the river has opened, it has been eyed by the city as a way to promote the river and rehabilitate nearby neighborhoods. Mayor Elinor C. Carbone has called it the Riverfront Recapture Project,...



Return To The Rivers by Steve Grant

Return To The Rivers: Connecticut's Waterways Reflect The State's History
By STEVE GRANT, Special To The Courant
7:39 a.m. EDT, July 20, 2014

The widely held assumption that Connecticut was complete wilderness when the first European settlers arrived in the early 17th Century is belied by what archaeologists have found along the state's rivers.

"It was not wilderness," said Nicholas Bellantoni, a professor of archaeology at the University of Connecticut and the designated state archaeologist. To be sure, Connecticut essentially was a vast forest in 1600, but along major rivers, especially the Connecticut River, there were numerous little pockets of cleared land where Native Americans grew corn, beans and squash.

Where Hartford's Park River meets the Connecticut, there was a settlement; where the Hockanum River in East Hartford meets the Connecticut, there was a settlement. Crops also were grown in the fertile flatlands along other major rivers like the Farmington and the Housatonic.

"Those were desirable areas," Bellantoni said. When the first European settlers arrived, they went right for those fertile, flat and already cleared patches of land. "We settled in places that Native Americans had already settled."
Click here to read full story in the Hartford Courant.


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Naugatuck Savings Bank, Connecticut Community Foundation
Union Savings Bank, Wesson Energy, Inc., The United Illumination Company, Friends of Naugatuck River
The Platt Brothers & Company, Thomaston Savings Bank, Valley Community Foundation