MassDEP will provide financial assistance to the city of Chicopee to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant. The facility, located on the Connecticut River, will achieve advanced nitrogen removal levels, reducing nitrogen pollution flowing from the river to Long Island Sound.
This article was originally published in December 2022 as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law fact series.
The city of Chicopee, Massachusetts will prevent around 100,000 pounds of nitrogen a year from discharging into the Connecticut River, and ultimately 75 miles downriver into Long Island Sound, thanks in part to a grant from the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant.
LISS is supporting the nitrogen reduction efforts of Chicopee’s upgrade through a $4.5 million grant to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) made possible by EPA funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It is part of the Study’s overall strategy to reduce nitrogen levels in the Sound, which can degrade coastal waters and cause harm to wildlife. MassDEP also received the grant for the Chicopee upgrade as part of EPA’s commitment to helping overburdened and underserved communities.
New York and Connecticut towns have been reducing nitrogen discharges into the Sound since 2000 as part of a bi-state Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan approved by the EPA. They are now reducing nearly 50 million pounds of annual nitrogen discharges. While municipalities in Massachusetts have long been required to monitor nitrogen levels, only over the last four years, as a result of new permit conditions, have they also been required to reduce nitrogen.
“Chicopee is currently the second largest producer of nitrogen in the State of Massachusetts (that discharges into the Sound),” said Susannah King, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program Chief at MassDEP. “This, in addition to its extensive need for upgrades, makes it an ideal place to focus our efforts for improving the health of the Long Island Sound.”
The plant upgrade, which is expected to be completed by 2030, will cost around $40 million—the LISS grant of $4.5 million will ease the burden on Chicopee residents to finance the upgrade. The city is already financing and completing necessary sewer separation upgrades, which will separate stormwater from sanitary sewer pipes to reduce sewage overflow events. This is especially beneficial as climate change threatens to bring heavier storm events in the future. These upgrades have resulted in increased sewer usage fees, which can be burdensome to families who are already struggling financially. Currently, over 66 percent of Chicopee residents live in what the state of Massachusetts defines as an environmental justice block group, areas with low household incomes and high minority populations.