Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions
Campaigns:

CCE IN THE NEWS

Source: CT Post

Long Island Sound is a fight worth the engagement

Posted: May 4, 2016
Originally Published: May 3, 2016

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has launched a dramatic — if quixotic — drive in Congress for an $860 million-a-year program to protect Long Island Sound.

May his effort be successful. But even in pushing the issue into the news, Murphy does a service in keeping awareness of the Sound’s fragility in the public conversation.

The Sound, as noted here often, is a multi-million dollar economic asset and a major component in the state’s quality of life. It is never to be underestimated as an economic driver.

A Hearst Connecticut Media investigation last year of federal Environmental Protection Agency documenrts uncovered unsettling data on the threat to marine life from pollutants that continue to flow into the Sound.

Groups and individuals committed to preserving the Sound have been making progress. In February, for instance, the Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), Save the Sound and other groups eased off on legal action after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to step up the limits on nitrogen pollution in the sound.

And it is nitrogen that is the main culprit in the threat to the Sound’s health. Nitrogen comes from many sources, including, perhaps most unpleasantly, sewage treatment plants that ring the coast.

But it also enters the Sound in the runoff of pesticides and fertilizers from residential and agricultural properties and from private septic systems. Even inland communities contribute with runoff that goes into the Connecticut rivers and streams that empty into the Sound.

Excessive nitrogen contributes to hypoxia, a deficiency of oxygen, that ultimately kills all sorts of marine life, including fish and grasses, creating the so-called “dead zones” that plague the Sound.

Of course, it’s a complex problem. Consider that the Connecticut River, by some estimates, provides 70 percent of the fresh water entering the Sound, so a comprehensive nitrogen reduction plan requires attention in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Despite the abuse we heap on it, the waters remain home to the bait fish — menhaden, aka bunker; porgies and other small fish — that the larger members of the food chain feed on.

Those larger members, incidentally, would include the humpback whales and dolphins that local boaters photographed frolicking in the Sound last summer.

Murphy’s call is for $850 million a year not only to combat the influx of nitrogen — $165 million would be earmarked for the nitrogen effort — but also to prepare the coastline for rising water levels. The odds of Murphy succeeding with an environmental initiative in a Republican-controlled Congress have yet to be set. But the fight is worth the engagement.

And a reminder that protecting Long Island Sound is not such a massive project that individuals don’t matter. Repairing a septic system and cutting back on nitrogen-rich fertilizers for the lawn are just two ways the average Connecticut resident can help.