Connecticut Water Quality Trading Program Awarded First EPA “Blue Ribbon” Award
An innovative program to reduce nitrogen discharges into the Long Island Sound has resulted in the State of Connecticut winning EPA’s first Blue Ribbon Water Quality Trading Award.
“Connecticut has done a remarkable job working to reduce nitrogen to Long Island Sound,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Their hard work will result in a healthier ecosystem in the Sound for millions of residents to enjoy.”
The Conn. program was selected over other finalists from across the country. The EPA award highlights programs which have achieved environmental and economic benefits as well as to showcase programs that align well with EPA’s Water Quality Trading Policy.
“EPA applauds Connecticut’s national leadership on water quality trading, which is the wave of the future. Our blue ribbon winner is setting a shining example for reducing pollution, restoring ecosystems, and saving money,” remarked Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Water issues.
Every summer, the bottom waters of the western half of Long Island Sound experience hypoxia, or very low levels of dissolved oxygen. Extensive monitoring of Long Island Sound has identified the excess discharge of nitrogen from human activities as the primary pollutant causing hypoxia.
In 2001, EPA along with both the State of Conn. and State of New York, set aggressive new targets to significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen that can be discharged to Long Island Sound without impairing the health of the Sound. Through 2006, the point source nitrogen load to the Sound (from 106 sewage treatment plants in N.Y. and Conn.) was reduced by nearly 25 percent.
“We have made great strides in reducing nitrogen loading to Long Island Sound through our innovative Nitrogen Credit Trading Program” said DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy. “Municipal participation is a key to successful trading, and their cooperation and interest has been exceptional. We appreciate EPA’s recognition of this proactive program and look forward to continuing this incredibly important work with our federal partners.”
One of Connecticut’s management strategies to reduce nitrogen loading was to develop an innovative nitrogen-trading program among the 79 sewage treatment plants located throughout the state. Through the Nitrogen Credit Exchange, established in 2002, the Conn. program has reduced nitrogen discharges, meeting or exceeding the reduction goal of 58.5 percent by 2014.
Trading provides significant cost savings compared to the state issuing a permit to each facility individually. Trading also provides municipalities with flexibility to make decisions about whether to upgrade and market any credits they earn or to buy credits to meet their permit limit. Nitrogen trading has accelerated the State’s schedule to meet the nitrogen targets.
The use of geographically-based trading ratios provides an economic incentive, encouraging action toward the most cost effective and environmentally beneficial projects.
The third year of the Nitrogen Credit Exchange resulted in 28 sewage treatment plants discharging below their assigned permit limits, enabling them to sell nitrogen credits valued at $1.31 million to sewage treatment plants in the State that are not upgrading or otherwise require purchasing credits.
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