BIL Funds to Upgrade Sewage Plants in Three Massachusetts Cities within the Long Island Sound Watershed

Through BIL funding, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) will provide financial assistance to the municipalities of Chicopee, Gardner, and Pittsfield to help fund improvements to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) to reduce nitrogen that flows into Long Island Sound.

Aerial view of the Chicopee Water Pollution Control Facility. The Connecticut River is located to the west. Quinn Lonczak photo
Aerial view of the Chicopee Water Pollution Control Facility. The Connecticut River is located to the west. Photo by Quinn Lonczak
This article was originally published in December 2022 as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law fact series. It was updated in November 2023, and again in March of 2024. You can view the original fact sheet here.

Made possible by a Long Island Sound Study (LISS) grant to MassDEP, these upgrades will prevent approximately 220,000-290,000 pounds of nitrogen from reaching the Sound each year.

Situated in one of the upper New England states in the Long Island Sound watershed, these WWTPs discharge treated sewage into waterbodies upstream that drain to the Sound. Chicopee, Gardner, and Pittsfield each have populations with environmental justice concerns. LISS-funded grants from MassDEP will help these municipalities intensify initiatives to remove nitrogen from treated sewage to significantly reduce pollution entering Long Island Sound while easing the financial burdens on residents to shoulder upgrade costs.

A map of Massachusetts with colored blocks indicating environmental justice groups. To the left is a legend explaining how each color coordinates to each block. By clicking this image, you will be navigated to the interactive map page.
Starred locations indicate Pittsfield, Chicopee, and Gardner (from left to right). Click the image to view the interactive map on

New York and Connecticut towns have been reducing nitrogen discharges to the Sound since 2000 as part of a bi-state Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan approved by the EPA, reducing over 50 million pounds of annual nitrogen discharges. While municipalities in Massachusetts have long been required to monitor nitrogen, new permit conditions now require them to reduce levels.

Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), $21.2 million per year over five federal years (2022–2026) will be funneled into infrastructure and climate resiliency projects within the Long Island Sound watershed. These investments are guided by LISS’s Equity Strategy, which sets a program goal to deliver 40 percent of BIL investments to underserved and overburdened communities. For more on the LISS Equity Strategy, visit this webpage.

The City of Chicopee, Massachusetts was the first to receive funds under this award to MassDEP. Seventy-seven percent1 of Chicopee residents live in what the state of Massachusetts defines as an Environmental Justice Block Group.

Clarifier at the Chicopee Wastewater Treatment Plant that will be upgraded. Cheyenne Ellis photo
The clarifier at the Chicopee Wastewater Treatment Plant will be upgraded using BIL funds. Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

“Chicopee is currently the second largest producer of nitrogen in the State of Massachusetts (that discharges into the Sound),” said Susannah King, Wastewater Section Chief and formerly 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 in 2027, will cost around $40 million—the LISS grant of approximately $7 million will ease the burden on Chicopee residents to finance the upgrade. The city is already financing and completing necessary sewer 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.

The Gardner Wastewater Treatment Facility, serving 22,000 residents, discharges into the Otter River located 115 miles upstream from the Sound. The facility will undergo improvements to reduce its annual nitrogen discharge to an average of 92 pounds/day and work should be completed in 2027. MassDEP has provided roughly $2.5 million for equipment and operational updates at the facility. More than 73 percent2 of the population of Gardner falls within an environmental justice block group.

The Pittsfield Wastewater Treatment Plant serves double that of Gardner, at 50,000 residents. The facility is an advanced secondary plant that discharges to the Housatonic River located 149 miles upstream of the Sound. As part of project funding, the city will improve the aeration systems at the Pittsfield WWTP, estimated to eliminate 6,000 pounds of nitrogen annually once completed in 2028 Nearly half of Pittsfield’s population falls into an environmental justice block group (48.7 percent). The City of Pittsfield completed its first round of upgrades to the plant in January 2023, funded through loans from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust. Over three years, the city updated equipment and monitoring systems and constructed a new building on the border of Pittsfield’s sewage and the Housatonic River. While these upgrades have significantly reduced nitrogen loading from the plant, further work is required to meet permit mandates. Nearly $1 million in LISS BIL funds will help support

the development of an analysis report for reducing the total nitrogen loading from the Pittsfield WWTP and an increase in process monitoring systems. The Pittsfield project marks the first time LISS is funding a nitrogen reduction initiative in the upper watershed that falls outside of the Connecticut River watershed, which supplies 70 percent of Long Island Sound’s fresh water.


The primary source of nitrogen to Long Island Sound is from sanitary wastewater treatment plants. High nitrogen levels in the Sound can lead to hypoxic conditions, reducing oxygen which impacts marine life and supports the growth of harmful algal blooms. Monitoring progress is important for meeting nitrogen reduction goals. You can view LISS’s nitrogen loading target here.

  1. In Massachusetts, an environmental justice population is a neighborhood where one or more of the following criteria are true: 1)the annual median household income is 65 percent or less of the statewide annual median household income; 2)minorities make up 40 percent or more of the population; 3) 25 percent or more of households identify as speaking English less than “very well”; and/or 4) minorities make up 25 percent or more of the population and the annual median household income of the municipality in which the neighborhood is located does not exceed 150 percent of the statewide annual median household income.
  2. This data was obtained from ↩︎

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