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Environmentalists File Lawsuit Over New Haven Sewage Spill

Luke Jones

The environmental organization Save the Sound has filed a lawsuit against the regional sewer authority for the city of New Haven, Connecticut, and the nearby community after a burst pipe last July released 2.1 million gallons of sewage into the Mill River.

The lawsuit said the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority knew the Whitney Avenue Pressure Sewer piping has been corroded since 2014 but failed to properly monitor and investigate it in the last five years.

Last year a sinkhole developed. The authority planned to re-enforce the pipe, but then the sewage line burst before construction.

The sewage spill began in the Mill River and flowed into Long Island Sound.

“The Mill River spill highlighted critical gaps in the routine maintenance and inspection programs that could likely result in future pollution if not resolved,” the lawsuit said.

Save the Sound attorney Katherine Fiedler said the organization’s goal is to prevent future spills with improved inspection and maintenance of large sewer pipes and follow-up on pipes compromised by corrosion.

The Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority said in a statement that it is “disappointed” with Save the Sound and calls the lawsuit “misguided.” They defended its action as swift in dealing with the spill, claiming that “the line was isolated within 29 hours” and that sewage was contained to prevent additional spills.

The authority is responsible for over 550 miles of pipe, some of which date back to the 1800s. They also monitor and operate 30 pump stations and a sewage treatment plant that treats about 10 billion gallons of sewage each year. It insists that it is “constantly monitoring” the system, but according to Sidney J. Holbrook, executive director of the authority: “No system is failsafe.”

The authority said the burden of the suit will fall upon ratepayers and will likely raise user fees.

President of Save the Sound Curt Johnson said the authority’s poor maintenance undermines taxpayers. He said that the authority “must develop strong programs to prevent this harm to our shared natural resources.”