State of the Beach/State Reports/CT/Water Quality
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- 1 Water Quality Monitoring Program
- 2 Water Quality Contacts
- 3 Beach Closures
- 4 Storm Drains and Sewage Outfalls
- 5 Water Quality Contact (Runoff and Outfalls)
- 6 Perception of Causes
- 7 Public Education
- 8 General Reference Documents and Websites
- 9 Footnotes
Water Quality Monitoring Program
The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) signed into law on October 10, 2000, amends the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), incorporating provisions intended to reduce the risk of illness to users of the Nation's recreational waters. The BEACH Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to award program development and implementation grants to eligible States, Territories, Tribes, and local governments to support microbiological testing and monitoring of coastal recreation waters, including the Great Lakes, that are adjacent to beaches or similar points of access used by the public. BEACH Act grants also provide support for development and implementation of programs to notify the public of the potential exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in coastal recreation waters. EPA encourages coastal States and Territories to apply for BEACH Act Grants for Program Implementation (referred to as Implementation Grants) to implement effective and comprehensive coastal recreation water monitoring and public notification programs. CWA section 406(i) authorizes appropriations of up to $30 million per year to develop and implement beach programs. Unfortunately, only about one-third that amount has been authorized each year since the program's inception. In recent years, the total funding available for BEACH Act grants has been about $9.5 million. Funding beyond 2012 has been in jeopardy, since EPA's budget requests for this program in FY2013 and FY2014 were ZERO (money for testing in 2013 and 2014 was ultimately allocated as part of Continuing Resolutions to resolve the Federal Budget impasse) and there was also no money for beach testing in the FY2015 budget. Again, it was restored at the last minute as part of a Continuing Resolution. It is very discouraging to have to fight for this basic funding to protect the public's health at the beach every year. Thankfully, there is a growing movement to provide stable funding. Unfortunately, in 2017 the situation is even more dire. If available, funds are allocated to the states and territories based on a formula which uses three factors that are readily available and verifiable: (1) Length of beach season, (2) miles of beach and (3) number of people that use the beaches. Connecticut was eligible for a $213,000 grant in fiscal year 2016.
Much of the following discussion is taken from NRDC's report Testing the Waters, A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, June 2014. NRDC's report evaluates beach monitoring data relative to EPA's recommended Beach Action Value (BAV). The BAV is a more protective threshold than the national allowable bacteria levels used in previous years to trigger beach advisories. The EPA considers the BAV to be a "conservative, precautionary tool for making beach notification decisions."
NRDC ranked Connecticut 12th in Beachwater Quality (out of 30 states). 10% of samples exceeded EPA's new BAV standards for designated beach areas in 2013.
Connecticut has 73 public beaches stretching along 15 miles of Long Island Sound coastline. The Connecticut Department of Public Health (CTDPH) administers the state's BEACH Act grant. Connecticut's monitoring season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Water quality reports and swimming advisories are available on the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's website.
Connecticut classifies their beaches into three tiers. Tiers 1 and 2 beaches have weekly sampling. Tier 1 beaches had no more than 1 closure during the previous bathing season, while Tier 2 beaches had 2 or 3 closures during the previous bathing season. Tier 3 beaches either had more than 3 closures or may not be monitored. Here is a table showing the current and historic beach classifications.
Local jurisdictions are responsible for determining preemptive closing and advisory practices. State guidance allows preemptive beach closings based on rainfall data, and many municipalities have adopted a preemptive rainfall threshold for some beaches. When preemptive rainfall thresholds are reached at the selected beaches, they are automatically closed until test results indicate that there is no bacterial violation. Local jurisdictions may recommend preemptive closures if there is a known waste contamination event such as a sewage bypass, mechanical failure at a sewage treatment plant, or a sewer line break. If a beach is affected by floating debris, the beach can be closed for safety reasons. Local health departments may also post an advisory at a beach or close it if there is a harmful algal bloom.
Shoreline municipalities in Connecticut are sensitive to reports of swimmer's itch. Swimmer's itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, appears as a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain parasites that infect some birds and mammals. These microscopic parasites are released from infected snails into freshwater and salt water. While the parasites' preferred host is nonhuman, if the parasite comes into contact with a swimmer, it burrows into the skin and dies, causing an allergic reaction and rash. Swimmer's itch is found throughout the world and is more frequent during summer months. Connecticut beaches can be placed under advisory when swimmer's itch is reported.
Connecticut's Water Quality Standards include bacterial indicators which are referenced in Appendix B.
The status of beach areas can be checked by calling (866) 287-2757 or by visiting the beach monitoring website.
Other Water Quality Monitoring Programs
National Ocean Service/National Center for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) has carried out many water quality research projects in Connecticut.
Water Quality Contacts
Connecticut Department of Public Health
Environmental Health Section
410 Capitol Avenue, MS#51REC
P.O. Box 340308
Hartford, CT 06134-0308
Phone: (860) 509-7305
Fax: (860) 509-7295
Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse
In 2013, Connecticut reported 73 coastal beaches, 70 of which were monitored. Of all reported beach monitoring samples, 10% exceeded the Beach Action Value (BAV) of 60 enterococcus bacteria colony forming units (cfu) per 100 ml marine or estuarine water in a single sample. NRDC considers all reported samples individually (without averaging) when calculating the percent exceedance rates in this analysis. This includes duplicate samples and reported samples taken outside the official beach season, if any.
The beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates of the BAV in 2013 were Town Beach (Clinton) in Middlesex County (27%), Clark Avenue Beach in New Haven County (26%), Byram Beach in Fairfield County (24%), Bransford Point Beach in New Haven County (23%), and Jacobs Beach (Town Beach) in New Haven County (23%).
For a bar chart showing a 5-year water quality trend, see NRDC's report.
Connecticut's 2013 Annual Report for the US EPA BEACH Grant (2/07/14) is available at the Department of Public Health's website. Key sections of the report include:
- The 2013 Beach Grant Annual Report presents beach data for 2003 through 2013 inclusive.
- Summary beach data charts for 2003-2012 are found in the lead-off preview section.
- Two new technical notes follow the summary beach data charts in the lead-off preview section. These take a close look at beach goer illness and the new 2012 US EPA Recreational Water Quality Criteria.
- The INTRODUCTION section includes reference to Connecticut’s published framework for managing Unsafe Incidents At The Beach. (p. 1)
- A short overview of proposed federal beach legislation. (p. 13)
- Connecticut has developed a functional proof-of-concept Intranet application for tracking and presenting beach data. (p. 14)
- The CONNECTICUT SHORELINE AT-A-GLANCE section has shoreline statistics. (p. 43)
- The Beach Tier list has been updated for 2013. (p. 55)
- The PUBLIC NOTIFICATION section has been updated for 2013. (starting on p. 67)
- The Public Beaches web page has been updated and is included. (p. 71)
- Summary recreational water quality monitoring data for 2013 are included as well as the monitoring data for 2003 through 2012 (starting on p. 77). Monitoring data for 2003-2013 are plotted on three axis charts for the Connecticut shoreline (starting on p. 95).
- Monitoring data generated for the Quality Assurance Project Plan are included for 2013. (starting on p. 80)
- Single sample exceedance data for 2003-2013 are plotted on a three axis chart for the Connecticut shoreline. (p. 107)
- The ROLLING GEOMETRIC MEAN section includes 2013 data. (starting on p. 108)
- Detected beach exceedance days are listed for 2013. (p. 116)
- Beach closure and advisory event data for 2013 are included (as well as closure and advisory event data for 2003 through 2012). (starting on p. 120)
- A three axis chart plots the relative geographic distribution of all closure events for 2003-2013 along the Connecticut shoreline. (p. 121)
- Beach closure and advisory day and event counts are grouped by EPA Reason and Source for 2003-2013. (by beach starting on p. 135; with summaries starting on p. 156)
- Known potential sources of pollution are reported for 2013 with 2007 through 2013 data mapped as well. (starting on p. 164)
- The Connecticut Beach Score Card has been updated with 2013 beach data. (p. 190)
- Two case studies report the public health response to deteriorating recreational water quality and a late summer hurricane. (p. 191)
- Connecticut's US EPA formatted beach data for 2006 through 2012 are included in Appendices A through G.
In June 2013, U.S. EPA released its latest data about beach closings and advisories for the 2012 swimming season. Note that for some states the data is incomplete, making state-to-state or year-to-year comparisons difficult. Here's EPA's BEACH Report for Connecticut's 2012 Swimming Season. EPA no longer publishes this report.
The United States Geological Survey maintains a website, USGS Connecticut Water Science Center. This site is a valuable source of information including current projects, online reports, publications, and maps, real-time water conditions and educational outreach material for teachers and students.
Connecticut Sea Grant is another source of information on water quality.
Storm Drains and Sewage Outfalls
Detailed information on the location or number of storm drains and sewage outfalls in Connecticut was not readily available.
Although the CDEP has no inventory of storm drains, they have produced outreach materials on non-point source pollution and storm drains and on Connecticut's storm drain stenciling program. Connecticut DEP, as well as a number of state environmental organizations, has funded the production and application of storm drain stencils.
CDEP reports that one sewage treatment plant, Fairfield, discharges directly to Long Island Sound. The other fifteen coastal plants discharge to harbors and tidal rivers. Additional information concerning the location of these outfalls and effluent monitoring results is stored at CDEP but is not publicly available.
In June 2014 Northeast Ocean Data announced the release of easy-to-use interactive maps of water quality data for the northeastern states from New York to Maine. Based on data provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the maps display No Discharge Zones, impaired waters, and wastewater discharges. Also shown on the maps are boundaries of watersheds and subwatersheds in the region. To view the water quality maps, go here.
The Connecticut Clean Water Fund (CWF) is the state's environmental infrastructure assistance program. The fund was established in 1986 to provide financial assistance to municipalities for planning, design and construction of wastewater collection and treatment projects. This program was developed to replace state and federal grant programs that had existed since the 1950s. The 1987 amendments to the Federal Clean Water Act required that states establish a revolving loan program by 1989. The federal account is designated as the qualifying State Revolving Fund (SRF) under Title VI of the federal Clean Water Act amendments of 1987 and is subject to EPA regulation. Federal assistance is deposited into the SRF. Since 1987, the Clean Water Fund has provided $397 million in grants and more than $1 billion in loans to improve water quality.
The state legislature cut millions of dollars of funding available for projects to upgrade sewage treatment plants in the budget approved in June 2005. The two-year state budget provided $140 million in capital funding for the Clean Water Fund (CWF) in 2006 and 2007. That represents only 16 percent of the $892 million in bonding the state Department of Environmental Protection requested for the fund's grant and loan programs. Contributions to the CWF as budgeted by the General Assembly were about $48 million a year from 1987 to 2002. Funding was cut in 2003 and 2004 and no money was added to the fund in 2005. In January 2006, the state bond commission approved an $87 million package to pay for CWF projects. The $87 million will be used to provide grants and loans for about 30 sewer-upgrade, storm-water and other projects around Connecticut that were approved by DEP for 2006.
An opinion piece "Down the Drain" by Curt Johnson, senior attorney and program manager for Connecticut Fund for the Environment, appeared in The Day on January 21, 2007. In the article, Mr. Johnson wrote "The General Assembly and the governor's office must return to financing clean-water progress before a shared dream of sewage-free rivers, streams and Long Island Sound fades away forever." Connecticut Fund for the Environment and Save the Sound lobbied for DEP's proposed $160 million investment in the Clean Water Fund for 2007. In early 2008 the state Bond Commission was expected to approve $216 million for local sewer projects, consisting of $60 million in state General Obligation bonds, which provides funding for grants, and $156 million in Revenue Bonds, which provides funding for the revolving loan pool.
In 2000, DEP launched an aggressive campaign with the USEPA and New York State to reduce the amount of nitrogen discharged into the sound by wastewater treatment plants. The treatment plant upgrades are important because nitrogen-rich wastewater feeds algae blooms that can reduce levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. The program targeted 79 Connecticut plants for upgrade by 2014. Among the projects seeking funding are wastewater treatment plants in Bridgeport, Milford and Stratford.
The Clean Water Fund FY2012-2013 Draft Priority list was released in February 2012. The 2011 Clean Water Fund Report is accessible from this website.
CDEP issued a report on the status of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) in the state in April 1998. The report outlines the progress to eliminate combined sewers, and also reports the number of CSOs in 1990 and 1998: 358 and 228, respectively.
In April 2013 the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) published the results of the first comprehensive look at where, how often and how much sewage from combined sewer overflows (CSOs) flows into New England waterways. NECIR's research indicated that in 2011, approximately 1.5 billion gallons of sewage water spilled through 125 pipes throughout Connecticut. The NECIR investigation determined more than 7 billion gallons spewed into waterways across New England, the first such compilation of an annual total. More info.
Problems with Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) by the Hartford-based Metropolitan District (MDC) led to a settlement agreement with the U.S. EPA and CDEP in May 2006 whereby the MDC agreed to significantly reduce SSOs which previously had been released into the Connecticut River. The agreement calls for the MDC to implement a comprehensive, system-wide plan to insure that all SSOs associated with insufficient capacity are eliminated in 7 to 12 years.
An article Aging and failing wastewater plants sending sewage into Sound appeared in ctpost.com on March 26, 2011. From the article:
- "[Bridgeport's] two wastewater plants bypassed full treatment 43 times during 2010, according to data from the state Department of Environmental Protection. In every case, the event was caused by heavy rain flowing into the plants. "We estimate that it will cost $2 billion to correct all of the CSO (Combined Sewer Outflow) systems in the state, and we get $200 million per year from the federal government to do not just this work but also denitrification and other projects to improve water quality in Long Island Sound. So it will take awhile to get all of it done," said Dennis Greci, chief of the DEP's municipal wastewater division."
An article Who's in charge at wastewater plant? concerning operational problems at Stamford's sewage treatment plant appeared at stamfordadvocate.com in January 2012. The article states:
- "The WPCA is under pressure from state and federal authorities to bring its infrastructure and environmental compliance up to code after several sewage line breaks and bypasses that have dumped thousands of gallons of untreated sewage into Long Island Sound. [...] To compound the challenges facing the WPCA, the plant -- which operates on a $22 million budget, employs roughly 40 workers and treats about 19 million gallons of wastewater a day -- has no real leadership in place."
The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) would have to post online notification of sewage spills that contaminate Long Island Sound, close its beaches and affect other bodies of water under a bill that the state Senate unanimously approved in April 2012. Senate Bill 88, An Act Concerning the Public’s Right to Know of Sewage Sills now goes to the House of Representatives, which also must approve it for it to become law. The bill would require the state to post information on its website about where sewer overflows are likely to occur after severe storms. It also would require DEEP to post notices of sewage spills whenever they happen near a body of water.
An article “Green” Vs. “Gray” On Sewage Plant Upgrade appeared in the New Haven Independent on January 18, 2013. At issue is the best way to prevent Combined Sewer Overflows from Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority’s East Shore plant. Activists are pushing for "...more holding tanks being built at places like the city’s schools, pilot flow meters studies at selected locations, rain gardens in your back yard, permeable surface requirements in those new surface parking lots, nifty new catch basins upgrades and other natural infiltration systems throughout town."
Connecticut's Coastal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control (CNP) Program, developed by DEP in response to Section 6217 of the federal Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990, received EPA and NOAA approval in November 2003. The program protects coastal waters from nonpoint sources of pollution through the implementation of management measures addressing agriculture, urban development, hydromodifications (e.g., dams), marinas and recreational boating, and the NPS pollution caused when wetlands are impaired and unable to attenuate pollution.
Connecticut's CNP program is a "networked" program relying on a range of state and local authorities. These programs include local planning, zoning, and inland wetlands authorities; soil erosion and sediment control requirements; state Public Health Code requirements; and the state's broad water pollution control authorities. They also include state regulatory programs pertaining to structures, dredging and fill in coastal waters; work in tidal wetlands; work in inland wetlands and watercourses; dams; and stream channel encroachments. The CNP program management area established by DEP is based, in part, on the presence of impervious cover in urban areas and on proximity to Long Island Sound. Because the CNP program relies on existing land use authorities, towns located in the management area will not be subject to additional mandates, but must continue their ongoing efforts to control NPS pollution.
DEP's Long Island Sound Fund, which is supported by sales of Preserve the Sound license plates, formerly provided free storm drain stenciling kits to volunteers to protect Long Island Sound. The kits contained markers that had the message "Drains to Waterways and Long Island Sound, No Dumping". DEP has distributed over 87,000 storm drain markers to 45 Connecticut municipalities and 21 other organizations. The kits are no longer available.
Additional information on non-point source pollution programs in Connecticut is available here and on NOAA's Website http://coastalmanagement.noaa.gov/nonpoint/welcome.html
Administrators of the two U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regions responsible for the health of the Long Island Sound and the environmental commissioners of New York and Connecticut signed agreements in September 2006 that support ongoing efforts to protect and restore this important body of water. As members of the Long Island Sound Policy Committee, the officials adopted a stewardship initiative focused on areas of the Sound with significant ecological and recreational value, and authorized a fund that will disburse $6 million for research and restoration. The officials also approved a Memorandum of Understanding to restore, by 2011, 300 acres of coastal habitats and 50 river miles of fish passages to spawning sites. In addition, they signed a directive calling for an evaluation of the management plan for hypoxia to assure that the states and federal government are on target to meet water quality standards for sufficient levels of dissolved oxygen in the Sound.
Water Quality Contact (Runoff and Outfalls)
Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse
Connecticut CNP Coordinator
Office of Long Island Sound Programs
Perception of Causes
The CDEP Integrated Water Quality Report to Congress website now contains the 2012 State of Connecticut Integrated Water Quality Report as well as reports for 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010.
At the end of 2011 Connecticut Fund for the Environment released a State of the Sound report. The report provided grades for the combined Connecticut and New York efforts to control pollution and restore water quality and habitat. The report gave a B- grade for beach litter, a D+ grade for raw sewage and a C- grade for stormwater runoff. The overall grade given for Connecticut and New York efforts to restore Long Island Sound was C+.
CTDEP has a great collection of articles Environmental Protection Begins With You that are classified under In Your Home, In the Yard, In the Garage, On the Water, At Work, and In Your Community.
Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is an international, interdisciplinary, water science and education program for formal and non-formal educators of K-12 students. The goal of the Project WET program is to facilitate and promote the awareness, appreciation, knowledge, and stewardship of water resources through the development and dissemination of classroom-ready teaching aids and the establishment of state and internationally sponsored Project WET programs.
There is also NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) program. NEMO is a partnership of three units of the University of Connecticut:
- Cooperative Extension System, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Natural Resources Management & Engineering Department, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Connecticut Sea Grant College Program
An innovative stormwater management project in Waterford, Connecticut is the 18-acre "Glenn Brook Green" subdivision. Located in a small watershed that drains into Jordan Cove, a 57-acre estuary connected to Long Island Sound. The 10-year project began in 1996 and attempts to compare the runoff characteristics between a "traditionally developed site" and a site with minimal impervious coverage and various Best Management Practices (BMPs) to control stormwater runoff. The BMPs include grass swales, roof leader "rain gardens", narrower permeable roads, and a vegetated infiltration basin. The results of the 10-year study were released in October 2005. The environmentally friendly half of the project produced no more runoff than if the land were left as forest. The BMP site peak flow is 1/11th "traditionally developed site" peak flow.
Connecticut's Clean Marina Program is a voluntary program that encourages inland and coastal marina operators to minimize pollution. The program also recognizes Connecticut's marinas, boatyards, and yacht clubs that go above and beyond regulatory compliance as "Certified Clean Marinas." Connecticut Clean Marinas have taken great strides to implement practices which minimize the pollution from mechanical activities, painting and fiberglass repair, hauling and storing boats, fueling, facility management, emergency planning and boater education. All certified marinas receive a weatherproof Clean Marina Flag to fly at their facility and authorization to use the Clean Marina Program logo on company publications.
The Connecticut Clean Marina Guidebook provides the information necessary for Connecticut's marina and boatyard operators to protect water and air quality, and outlines the requirements for certification as a Connecticut Clean Marina.
As a companion to the Clean Marina Program, the Clean Boater Program strives to prevent pollution by encouraging the state's boaters to learn about and use clean boating techniques when operating and maintaining their vessels. Clean Boater Packets are provided, and boaters are encouraged to sign a Clean Boater Pledge. Clean Boating Tips address winterization, fueling, hull maintenance, engine and bilge maintenance, cleaning material disposal, waste disposal, trash disposal and recycling, fish waste disposal, and nuisance species.
Connecticut’s Clean Vessel Act program assists recreational boaters by promoting the construction of, and directing boaters to, pumpout facilities throughout Long Island Sound. The DEP’s Clean Vessel Act website includes a map and directory of all available pumpout stations and pumpout boats, including dates and times of operation and costs of services. Program information explains why it is important for boaters to install or upgrade their marine sewage holding tank systems to be in compliance with the existing laws governing marine sanitation devices (MSDs). Additional information helps boaters to choose a system and to understand the different sewage system designs and system components available, and provides helpful tips for system installation and maintenance. Boaters will also find information about the Federal Clean Vessel Act (CVA) Grant Program, which provides federally funded matching grants for qualifying projects that provide boat sewage disposal facilities. The DEP Office of Long Island Sound Programs (OLISP) administers the CVA Grant Program in Connecticut, and through these CVA Grants can provide up to 75% of the funding of an approved project.
Connecticut's No Discharge Area Program
In an effort to preserve the quality of coastal waters in Long Island Sound, Connecticut has established a statewide No Discharge Area (NDA) program. Two individual NDAs, which together encompassed Connecticut's coastal waters from the Rhode Island state border to the boundary between the towns of Guilford and Branford were previously approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The remaining portion of Connecticut’s coastal waters from Branford west to the New York state border was approved as an additional NDA by EPA in July 2007. The statewide NDA includes Fishers Island Sound and portions of Long Island Sound from the Connecticut shore waterward to the New York state border, which bisects Long Island Sound. Information regarding Connecticut’s NDA can be found on the EPA website and on the DEP website.
On April 11, 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency gave preliminary approval to designation of the New York portion of Long Island Sound as a "no-discharge zone," pending determination that there are adequate facilities to pump the sewage from vessels. Read more on this from EPA's Region 2 website.
The discharge from boats of both treated and untreated sewage is prohibited, and boaters are instead required to use pumpout facilities or pumpout boats that serve the area. Eliminating the release of sewage from boats, both treated and untreated, will result in reductions of human fecal waste discharges and, consequently, reductions in nutrient loading and exposure to bacterial pathogens in swimming areas, shellfish beds and other environmentally sensitive aquatic habitats.
NDA Program Contact
No Discharge Area Program Coordinator
Office of Long Island Sound Programs
The Kellogg Environmental Center offers several school, scout, and other environmental programs covering water quality, watersheds, habitat, wildlife and other topics.
For additional resources, see the DEP Education Website.
General Reference Documents and Websites
EPA has compiled several NPS (Nonpoint Source) Outreach Products that are a selection of television, radio, and print products on nonpoint source pollution that have been developed by various agencies and organizations around the country. They are good examples of outreach in the mass media. Also see What You Can Do.
NOAA, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, International City/County Management Association and Rhode Island Sea Grant, has released an interagency guide that adapts smart growth principles to the unique needs of coastal and waterfront communities. Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities builds on existing smart growth principles to offer 10 coastal and waterfront-specific guidelines that help manage development while balancing environmental, economic, and quality of life issues.
- Tom Ouellette, CDEP, Surfrider State of the Beach survey response, January 2004.
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