Use Extreme Caution : 195' | What is this?
This is the current water level of Lake Lillinonah. Our safety indicator should be used as a guideline only; higher lake elevations cause more floating debris. Always use caution and watch out for floating debris when navigating Lake Lillinonah.
Safest: below 194'
Debris presence unlikely - safe for recreational use.
Caution: 194' to 195'
Debris possibly present - caution advised.
Use Extreme Caution: above 195'
Debris likely present - dangerous.
Posted: April 18, 2012
Hi Bob and Dirk:
Thank you for the article in the News-Times on April 5 about the Danbury wastewater treatment plant. Those of us who want a cleaner Lake Lillinonah are disappointed in Danbury’s opposition to improving the quality of effluent from the facility. Not only does the high concentration of phosphorus negatively affect Lake Lillinonah as Mr. Read states in your article, and as the DEEP confirms on its website (see note 1 below) ; it also affects the Still River and the entire Housatonic River downstream to the Long Island Sound.
We question Mayor Boughton’s statement that “The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s own studies show this (phosphorus reduction) won’t impact water quality.” We contacted Mr. Charles Lee, Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse, CT DEEP, who is “unaware of what studies Mr. Boughton is citing.” We are also unaware of any such study. The above referenced DEEP link clearly states otherwise.
We also wish to shed light on the fact that during the drier summer months, Danbury’s ten million gallons per day of effluent contribute a higher percentage of phosphorus to the river compared to rainier months, when there is more water flowing in the rivers to dilute the effluent. As bad luck would have it, the dry summer months happen to be the season for algae.
Friends of the Lake’s water quality studies were performed by Hydro Technologies, Inc., a state certified laboratory, at regular intervals for several years. The results show that the Danbury plant almost doubles the phosphorus at the confluence of the Still and Housatonic Rivers during the summer months. There is a ‘tipping point’ for algae growth, when enough nutrients cause the algae bloom. Danbury’s wastewater treatment plant’s effluent pushes the nutrient load over this tipping point (see note 2 below).
According to the DEEP (see note 3 below), Danbury is discharging an average of 78 pounds of phosphorus into the river each day. It would take 187 bags of common fertilizer (containing 1% phosphorus) to equal that amount. With apologies to Mr. Read, this equates to almost four tons of fertilizer dumped off the Lover’s Leap Bridge every day (see note 4 below).
The 2008 discharge permit for Danbury allows for 1.0 mg/l discharged from May through September, with no limit the rest of the year. Permits are issued on a 5-year renewal basis. Danbury is due for renewal, and the draft permit in question is part of this process. Most other wastewater treatment plants on the Housatonic are complying with permits to discharge one-tenth of that amount (0.1 mg/l) during May-Sept., and 1.0 mg/l from October through April. For those currently discharging above those limits, their permits are due for renewal as well (see note 5 below).
We also question the estimate that there will be ‘55%’ and ‘70%’ increase in fees to residents who use the sewer system due to costs of $40 million to $88 million for upgrades to the treatment plant. According to Mr. David Pincumbe, involved with permitting and water quality at the EPA (6), upgrades for phosphorus removal typically cost between $1 million and $2 million for each million gallons of wastewater treated. Danbury is currently permitted to treat up to 15 million per day. At the current volume, an upgrade should cost between $10 million and $20 million. The cost would be spread among more than just Danbury city residents; Newtown, Bethel, Brookfield and Ridgefield also use the Danbury facility, as do all area residents with septic systems (when their tanks are pumped, Danbury is the likely destination for the effluent to be treated). These improvements do not depend entirely on local tax revenue. As the DEEP states on its web site: “The Clean Water fund provides a combination of grants and loans to municipalities which undertake water pollution control projects at the direction of the DEEP” (note 7 below). And for the record, Connecticut residents pay far less, on average, than Massachusetts residents for sewer fees (note 8 below).
Additionally, Mayor Boughton and the City Council should reconsider their stated position by doing what’s right for the environment, taking care of a city responsibility, reducing this pollution and complying with the permit. There would certainly be savings from avoiding penalties, fees and legal costs that would result from non-compliance. As a bonus, we’d save the lobbyist expenditure authorized to fight this permit.
Taxpayers may be interested to learn that Danbury paid $4,738,837 in ‘Nitrogen Trading Credits’ (a penalty for discharging too much nitrogen from the wastewater treatment plant) since the program commenced in 2003. This escalating-cost program ‘encouraged’ Danbury to improve the nitrogen removal process at the plant, which they have done, and which we applaud. The improvement was so dramatic that the ‘debit’ paid in 2010 was only $107,122; down from $1,108,335 the year before.
We do agree with Mayor Boughton that fertilizer runoff from residential homes is a concern. Friends of the Lake, the Lake Lillinonah Authority, the Candlewood Lake Authority, FirstLight Power (the owner of the lake), and local land use and inland-wetlands commissions are addressing this issue with educational initiatives for best landscaping practices, regulations for development, and fines when necessary for improperly developed lakefront property. With that said, the Danbury facility is a known ‘point source’ of phosphorus; a source that can be, and is overdue to be, fixed. It is time to stop polluting our rivers.
I contacted Mayor Boughton via email with some of the above information and references, hoping that this information might prompt his reconsideration of the matter. His email response was not encouraging.
I, for one, would rather see our tax dollars solve the problem, rather than paying tax dollars to avoid the problem. Unfortunately, it appears that the State DEEP and Federal EPA will likely have to ‘encourage’ Danbury again.
Friends of the Lake
(see http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2719&q=474130&depNav_GID=1654, ‘Watershed Summary Fact Sheets,’ “Nutrient Enrichment Analysis Watershed Overview”)
3) A bag of Scott’s Turfbuilder (Home Depot online ad) weighs 41.87 pounds, and contains 1% phosphorus. So, each bag contains .4187 pounds of phosphorus. Therefore, it would take 187.5 bags of Turfbuilder to equal the 78.51 pounds of phosphorus that Danbury is adding. 187.5 bags X 41.87 pounds per bag = 7,850 pounds (almost 4 tons of fertilizer).
4) See the following links for current permits.
see various WWTP on Housatonic River
In addition to New Milford, see Danbury, .pdf file, 2008 permit, attachment 1, p. 15
5) David Pincumbe, EPA, permitting and water quality
7) See Google results for “Tighe & Bond sewer rates survey,” CT and MA
P.O. Box 403
Bridgewater, CT 06752
Tel: (860) 210-8064
Fax: (860) 210-9894
Visit the LLA website by clicking on the link below.
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Please show your support today.