New Haven local residents have grown increasingly concerned in the past few years about the state of the Mill River’s water quality and aquatic life.
Members of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, or Save the Sound, hope to respond to those concerns with their Mill River Watershed Plan, which they presented last Wednesday at the Eli Whitney Museum to community residents and city officials. The 142-page document outlines myriad proposals to reduce pollution in the river, as well as expand trail parks in the area and provide educational resources for residents.
“Many suburban and urban rivers in Connecticut have been hurt by development and changes to land use over time, and the Mill River is no exception,” Nicole Davis, the organization’s Mill River Watershed coordinator, said in a statement. “Thanks to the efforts of so many partners from all the communities that share the Mill River, we’re on a path to fixing that.”
Davis presented a river cleanup plan to members of the New Haven Environmental Advisory Council in June, where the council’s members responded with enthusiasm. The plan is the product of eight months of research conducted by public volunteers, who convened seven total meetings with local community members.
The final report mentions that stormwater runoff is a significant source of pollutants in the river, as excess rainwater has carried materials — such as bacteria, sediment and nutrients — into the water. Davis told the News that most of the bacteria comes from runoff created by residential and urban development.
Thirty pages of the proposal specifically focus on ways to remove the bacteria present in the water by up to 40 percent and maintain healthy bacteria levels.
“The primary objective of this watershed plan is to address the water quality impairments in the Mill River and thereby restore the recreational uses and aquatic habitat that have been affected by poor water quality,” the final report reads.
New Haven’s water quality is not an anomaly — stormwater runoff is the number one cause of stream impairment in urban areas, according to the report.
Davis added that the next step for improvement is to find ways to properly implement the proposal’s suggestions, and the group is eyeing ways to fund their efforts.
The project to clean and maintain the river will qualify for federal and state funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environment Protection. Davis said that Save the Sound submitted three applications: one to the state, one to the Great Urban Parks campaign and one to a private foundation to raise funds for plans detailed in the proposal. She added that New Haven and other towns that border the river have been helpful in her organization’s efforts.
“The municipalities in the Mill River watershed were very engaged during the planning process,” Davis said in an interview with the News. “The City of New Haven was an active partner [in] helping to develop projects that would benefit the Mill River and support current initiatives in the City. City staff from Planning, Engineering and Parks were all involved as well as the City’s Environmental Advisory Council.”
Davis emphasized that residents could support efforts to clean up the river by promoting general awareness, as well as keeping rain barrels and planting rain gardens — which soak up water before it becomes runoff.
Rob Klee, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, lauded local and state forces—both public and private — for working together to raise environmental awareness.
“The improvements happening all along the Mill River are just one example of the cross-collaboration between towns, environmental advocates, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and many others to implement green infrastructure and community-based education and outreach programs across the state,” said Klee, according to the New Haven Register.
The Connecticut Fund for the Environment was founded in 1978 and merged with Save the Sound in 2004.
Nick Tabio | email@example.com .