Gov. Ned Lamont announced he was committing $85 million in state funding to alleviate flooding and sewage overflows during heavy rainstorms in North Hartford.
The money, which comes from Connecticut’s Clean Water Fund and some related funding, will be used to pay for twelve projects proposed by the Metropolitan District, a municipal corporation that runs water and sewer infrastructure and services for Hartford and surrounding municipalities.
Those twelve projects are estimated to cost $170 million and, according to the governor’s press release, the MDC believes the rest of the costs will be covered through its current resources without an increase to current water and sewer rates.
“I am glad that we can release this significant state funding to Hartford’s North End, which has been disproportionately impacted by sewer overflows for a long time,” Lamont said in a press release. “I’m grateful to DEEP, the Hartford delegation, the MDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the community leaders in Hartford for working together to make progress on this complex but critically important issue.”
The influx of funding to combat the flooding comes after Hartford residents, nonprofits and activist groups drew attention to the North End’s flooding problems, which have persisted for years, and alleged neglect by both the state and the MDC. The flooding damage brought on by heavy rains and big storms left residents facing thousands of dollars in damages to homes and businesses.
The MDC said it didn’t have the funding and support to make the necessary repairs. According to a 2023 report by the Independent Consumer Advocate for the MDC, the status quo for Hartford’s North End was “unacceptable,” and would only become worse with time.
According to the release, the proposal for fixing the flooding issues in the North End “includes a novel, private property infrastructure pilot that has potential financial, social, and environmental benefits by addressing privately-owned infrastructure that is connected to the public sewerage system.”
The governor’s office, the MDC and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection estimate that roughly $73 million will be used for private property infrastructure improvements for 3,500 properties.
As part of the budget package passed by the General Assembly and signed by Lamont earlier in June, DEEP is required to use available funding to give assistance to MDC for repairs and improvements to Hartford’s sewage system and requires the Connecticut Comptroller to create a special fund with both public and private money to offer a grant program for those impacted by flooding.
“MDC has committed to and will begin separation work in North Hartford by this July 2023. MDC is confident, removing stormwater first from the sewer system, rather than collecting the overflows in which it causes, will become the model and standard for other CSO communities across the country,” said Scott Jellison, CEO of MDC.
Part of DEEP’s assistance to MDC includes “repairing components on private property,” according to the budget. Five projects are set to begin in 2023, followed by six in 2024 and one in 2025, and MDC has reportedly committed to “intensifying efforts” to hire minority contractors and local labor.
“For years, the Blue Hills neighborhood in the city’s North End has suffered from sanitary backups and chronic flooding,” said Rep. James Sanchez, D-Hartford. “Hartford’s antiquated combined sewer and storm system is no longer able to handle today’s heavy rain events that are fueled by climate change.”
“This investment in the stormwater and sewer infrastructure will make a big difference for residents and businesses in North Hartford,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “This package includes funds to reimburse residents and small business owners who suffer damage from flooding, and it includes funding to make improvements in the ancient infrastructure that’s just not able to handle the kind of storms we routinely see today.”