Members of the Pequonnock River Initiative (PRI) recently presented their plan to clean up the river to the , trying to garner support for their project to improve the Pequonnock’s water quality.
"With these remediation plans, what we can do is try to help make certain areas more ecologically friendly and more conducive to clean water,” said Michael O’Reilly, PRI member and chairman of the Monroe Conservation Commission.
Established in 2010 when the Environmental Protection Agency labeled the Pequonnock as an impaired water body for animal life, the PRI is a partnership between Trumbull, Monroe, and Bridgeport and has close to 50 members.
Each town will develop its own action plan, and each of these will be incorporated into a Memorandum of Agreement to be signed by the mayor of Bridgeport and the first selectmen of Trumbull and Monroe.
“So far all three officials have agreed and have been following the process as it’s been going on,” said O’Reilly.
The complete draft of the three-town plan was to be presented to the leaders of the towns at the PRI’s meeting July 26.
The PRI’s target is the river’s surrounding watershed area, covering 29 square miles. The river itself starts in Monroe, flows through Wolfe Park, skirts the edge of Old Mine Park in Trumbull and then goes up through Trumbull’s wooded areas around the edge of Twin Brooks Park, finally flowing to Bunnell’s Pond in Bridgeport and down into the harbor.
“The main goal as far as we’re concerned is water quality,” said O’Reilly. But the PRI also states that by supporting their initiative, not only will the area become more hospitable to people and animals, but town property values will increase and the towns will be put in a better position to receive grant money from environmental organizations and foundations.
PRI member Lois Spence said the second key part of the group’s goal is developing a comprehensive yet understandable education program to teach people how to prevent toxic runoff from their properties.
It may come as a surprise, Spence said, but some people do not know basic water quality practices. “Some people don’t understand that it is not a good idea to go and take your camper and put it over a storm drain and dump there.”
The PRI, which is funded by grants from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, is still in the planning stages of the project. One potential idea is implementing new septic and tree regulations, but this would be done gradually with the support of all towns.
As well as gauging general interest, the PRI is currently scouting the towns’ different civic and governmental organizations, including the Trumbull Monroe Health District, to find members of their boards who are willing to join an implementation committee, to be created once the agreement passes. This new committee will put the plan into action.
One reason the PRI was needed in the first place, according to O’Reilly, is that there is currently not enough testing being done to find out the source of water contaminants like E. coli.
For example, last year there were three pond closings during Monroe’s recreational bathing season, and officials still do not have a handle on what caused it. Possible sources were geese or individual or community septic systems.
O’Reilly said that there is a problem when trying to identify the exact situation because within towns, there is no coordination going on between environmental organizations’ water testing efforts.
In each town, O’Reilly said, “The Conservation Commission, Parks and Recreation, the schools, and Public Works all do testing and they keep their information to themselves so nobody really knows who’s testing when, where and for what,” he said.
At the conclusion of the presentation, TMHD Chairman Dr. Lawrence Dinkes said that the commission “would be happy to maintain an interest and maybe send a representative.”