Murphy pushing for $325M to clean L.I. Sound

By:  John Burgeson
CT Post

STRATFORD — The town’s Short Beach is getting cleaner, town officials have been saying, and now they’re getting agreement from none other than Curt Johnson, executive director of Save the Sound, a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

Johnson was at Short Beach last week to meet with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, and Stratford Mayor John Harkins.

“You know, it may be hard to believe, but sometimes a little project can produce big results,” Johnson said. “About three years ago, Mayor Harkins took the initiative and improved the bathrooms here on Short Beach, a project that significantly reduced the amount of fecal bacteria that was leached into the Sound.”

Murphy, who initiated the meeting, was there to push for passage of his $325 million Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act, which he introduced earlier this summer with U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and the New York delegation in an effort to get more federal funding for the restoration of Long Island Sound.

“Yes, parts of Long Island Sound are getting cleaner, but we need to do more,” Murphy said. “There are still too many beaches that have to close during the summer. That’s why the Connecticut and New York delegations are pushing for this bill.”

Murphy said that keeping the Sound clean is expensive, involving for improvements in sewage treatment plants in much of New England, as well as dealing with so-called “point sources” of pollution such as lawn fertilizer, which eventually results in more nitrogen washing into the sound.

“We have a great website called soundhealthexplorer.org, which allows you to check on the health of your beach,” Johnson said. “Now, if you click on this beach, you’ll seen an orange dot, maning a ‘C’ ranking. But, in that website, you can change the parameters for just the last two years, and if you do that, you’ll see that Short Beach now gets an ‘A’ rating.”

But Johnson said that a big problem for the Sound’s health is leaking municipal sewer lines.

“Like all of us, they’re getting old,” he said.

Harkins took the opportunity to push for the sale of the town’s waster treatment plant at the foot of Birdseye Street to the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority, something that town voters will decide on in November — and an issue that Harkins has been roundly criticized for promoting.

“By regionalizing the plant, we’ll see more investment in the miles of sewer lines that will need to be upgraded in town,” Harkins said.