When you gotta go you gotta go. Unless maybe when it’s raining sheets across the city and the rain-swollen sewage treatment system is biting up to say hello. Put away the plunger. It ain’t gonna help. This is not the kind of greeting you want in your john.
Actually what really happens is raw sewage spills into Long Island Sound, according to a complaint filed against the city by the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, a nonprofit watchdog group that has put the city on notice: start cleaning up your act within two months or we’re moving into federal court. www.ctenvironment.org
I chatted this afternoon with Roger Reynolds, the attorney representing the environmental group, who says that more than one billion gallons of raw sewage has flowed into Long Island Sound since 2004 creating a public health hazard infecting shellfish, basements and city streets.
Reynolds has met with Mayor Bill Finch to discuss upgrades needed to avoid federal court action. If the city does not show good faith in 60 days he’ll move forward with a federal complaint.
The state Department of Environmental Protection says the city’s making some progress, but more needs to be done.
This environmental warning brings to the forefront once again a development proposal for the town of Monroe to tie into Trumbull’s wastewater pipeline connected to Bridgeport’s mothership sewage treatment facility. Can the city’s system handle the extra load that would come from the planned new construction for the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Monroe, and at what cost?
Understandably, Mayor Bill Finch wants the several million dollars in tax revenue front loaded to help plug the budget gap for this current year and next. Opponents say the money is not nearly enough and if it happens the revenue stream must be on a long-term basis. Reynolds says couching the revenue as a tax agreement is dubious because the source of the revenue is wastewater that comes under the authority of the city’s Water Pollution Control Authority. State law does allow municipalities to share property tax revenues, but Reynolds maintains all revenues must be directed to the WPCA and not the general fund.
The tentative agreement that had been worked out between the leaders of Bridgeport, Trumbull and Monroe calls for two revenues: a tax piece that would go into the general fund for the pipeline connection and a sewage treatment flow that would go to the WPCA.
Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, who has a frosty relationship with the mayor, is against the plan and is working City Council members to oppose it. The council has not yet received a formal proposal.
In fact at 4 p.m. this Thursday, a forum downtown at the Golden Hill Methodist Church across from City Hall is scheduled to address the benefits and disadvantages of the regional sewage pipeline. Should be a good one to attend. OIB friend George Estrada, former director of Public Facilities for the city, who has a strong understanding of the city’s sewage treatment operation, will serve as a panel member as well as Paul Timpanelli, one of the driving forces behind the proposal, chief of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. Timpanelli has brokered the tentative deal struck between the elected leaders of Bridgeport, Trumbull and Monroe.
This is some good shit to discuss because the very next day, Friday, the state Bond Commission is expected to vote through nearly $5 million in upgrades for the city’s wastewater and sewage treatment system in a $135 million agenda item to improve the sewage systems of a variety of cities. The city will need a lot more to modernize its facilities, and to those familiar with the upgrades required the city is getting crumbs, but it’s a start.
The state commission is also expected to approve $2 million earmarked to clean up a former medical site on Horace Street for the relocation of an elevator manufacturing company from Westchester.