Connecticut cleans its water

In spite of Connecticut’s budget woes, $135 million will likely be allocated by the state Bond Commission this Friday to improve the state’s clean water infrastructure — “a critical step” in protecting the Long Island Sound, one leading local environmentalist said.

The money would come from the Connecticut Clean Water Fund, a state program consisting of various grants and loans totalling $270 million. Designed to decrease environmental degradation and pollution by improving infrastructure, Gov. M. Jodi Rell is seeking the release of the $135 million. Regardless of Connecticut’s financial crisis, city officials say this money has the potential to benefit New Haven both economically and environmentally.

If the commission agrees to release the money, $57 million of it will go directly to projects to improve local water quality in the New Haven area.

This planned allocation is an odd move given Connecticut’s tight budget allocations, Martin Mador ’71 FES ’02 said, legislative and political chair for the Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club — the oldest and largest environmental grassroots agency in the United States.

“We’re lucky to get the $135 [million] bonded,” Mador said, “especially since Connecticut has a very high debt ratio and huge budget deficits are being predicted for 2009.”

The CWF money comes from state-issued bonds, which buyers pay off over a 30 year period at 2 percent interest. The spending of this money requires the approval of the state’s Bond Commission, which Rell chairs. Other members of the 10-person committee, which meets once a month to allocate revenue from bond sales, include the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Robert Genuario and the Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73.

In addition to other statewide projects that will receive money from this installment of the CWF, much of the spending package will go to upgrading the sewage treatment facility of West Haven to accommodate nitrogen removal, updating the combined sewer systems of New Haven and Bridgeport to reduce the volume of combined sewage discharged during rains, and improving New Haven’s regional disposal facilities for fats, oils and greases. Between New Haven and West Haven, water facilities in the area will receive at least $107 million.

And as Rell’s spokesman Adam Liegeot ’94 noted, this is not the only benefit to New Haven.

“In the short term, we’re creating jobs in New Haven,” Liegeot said in an interview Tuesday. “In the long term, we secure the sound and Connecticut gets looked to as a national leader in water projects.”

The Connecticut Bond Commission will convene in Hartford this Friday at 10 a.m. to decide on the remaining $135 million.

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