What's Being Done In Black Rock Harbor

October 19, 2019

Many of you have reached out regarding the overflow of sewage into Black Rock Harbor. The harbor is one of our greatest natural resources and a key component to our quality of life. I share the concern about our water quality. My staff and I have been briefed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and I’d like to explain a little further what’s been occurring on our city’s shoreline.

You may have noticed a pattern – after heavy rainfalls, the water becomes murkier and you may spot more trash and debris. That’s because Bridgeport is one of four remaining communities in Connecticut still dealing with combined sewer overflows, or CSOs. Combined sewers carry both sewage and stormwater. After heavy rainfalls, the capacity of sewers can be overwhelmed, and untreated sewage overflows into our rivers and streams, including Black Rock Harbor. You can see how this occurs in the graphics provided by DEEP below. The average annual CSO discharge amount in our city is 370 million gallons.

Bridgeport has made progress in decreasing the amount of CSO outfalls. For example, in 1989, there were 120 CSOs, and in 2019 there were 31, but plenty more work remains to be done.

DEEP has approved a Long Term Control Plan for Bridgeport, which includes sewer separation and other projects, and requires these to be completed by 2039. This will cost $385 Million to complete, but it is well worth the investment to improve the water quality in our rivers, streams, and harbors, as well as the health of our oceans. The state has a program to help Bridgeport fund this: 50% is a grant, and the other 50% is a low interest loan.

The other projects required to address this issue include comprehensive upgrades to our wastewater treatment plants, which are sometimes unable to keep up with the amount of water that must be treated, especially during storm events. Designs and equipment upgrades will be completed by 2026. You can learn more about the process and this issue by clicking here.

While this timeline may seem long, there is significant planning and construction that goes into this level of infrastructure improvements in the city of Bridgeport.

I will continue to work with DEEP and try to streamline the process as much as possible, and I will keep you updated as we learn more.

Here are steps you can take to reduce your own stormwater runoff:

  • Minimize impervious surfaces on your property
  • If your downspouts are connected directly to a storm drain, disconnect them
  • Replace lawn areas with native plants
  • Plant trees and preserve existing ones
  • Instead of washing your car in the driveway, bring your car to a car wash

As always, please feel free to reach me with any questions, comments or concerns at Steve.Stafstrom@cga.ct.gov or 860-240-8585. Please be sure to follow my official Facebook page for more frequent updates.