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Hartford and MDC have shared responsibility in addressing Hartford's North End flooding, EPA says

Sharon Lewis, environmental advocate and affected resident shared her story of losing some of her most prized possessions, family heirlooms and her entire home due to over $100,000 worth of sewage flooding. She has been forced to live out of a hotel for over a month.
Ayannah Brown
Connecticut Public
Sharon Lewis, environmental advocate and affected resident shared her story of losing some of her most prized possessions, family heirlooms and her entire home due to over $100,000 worth of sewage flooding. She has been forced to live out of a hotel for over a month.

The Environmental Protection Agency has released an inspection report on various sewage and flooding issues in Hartford’s North End.

The report comes as EPA officials examined the neighborhood in January. The report documented meetings with officials and residents, as well as site inspections. Residents say they’ve experienced flooding and sewer overflows – and they’ve been complaining to officials, saying they feel neglected.

The EPA found the city of Hartford and the Metropolitan District – or MDC, which provides water service to the Hartford area – share responsibility for some of the community complaints.

The EPA is working to solve the community’s complaints, said James Chow, acting director of the Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division at the EPA. And the agency has been in touch with both the city and MDC.

"We feel both MDC and the city of Hartford have shared responsibilities,” Chow said. “MDC is currently maintaining the combined sewage that underlines much of Hartford and North Hartford. While the city of Hartford has certain obligations, as well."

MDC ratepayers have approved more than $1 billion for wastewater infrastructure upgrades, officials said.

MDC has been fixing sewers across northern Hartford, CEO Scott Jellison said in a letter to EPA.

“While it is being portrayed publicly that the MDC hasn't been addressing its responsibilities within Northern Hartford, it should be pointed out that 70,122 LF of this work occurred in Northern Hartford,” Jellison wrote.

MDC noted that many customer complaints about flooding and basement backups stemmed from extreme storms in 2021, when significant amounts of rain fell across the region.

In a statement to Connecticut Public, MDC said it continues to work with various agencies “on multiple, short term and long term solutions that will provide positive benefits to the community in the North End of Hartford.”

Mayor Luke Bronin said in a statement to Connecticut Public the city has also been working with other local, state, and federal agencies.

“A real long-term fix requires massive upgrades to the region’s stormwater system, and we hope the EPA may be able to serve as a partner and an advocate to help push that work forward,” Bronin said.

MDC said it’s been doing public outreach in the North End. MDC plans to form a Citizens Advisory Committee and hold annual public meetings each spring that will include the involvement of Hartford Neighborhood Revitalization Zones.

In a statement, EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash said the agency’s report is “an important step forward.” He thanked community activists “for bringing these serious flooding, sewer overflow, and backups issues to our attention.”

“Addressing environmental justice, and the burdens that communities face, is a priority for EPA and the Agency will continue to review and aggressively pursue opportunities to resolve these concerns,” Cash said.

Community advocates like Brigitte Prince said African Americans and other people of color are essentially being segregated from functional municipal services. She says other parts of the city don’t flood like the North End.

"I think it's racism,” Prince said.

Prince said advocates and members in the North End community are calling for the resignation of MDC chairman William DiBella.

"When you deal with the head, it's a domino effect,” she said. “When the head goes down, it affects the rest of the delegation, the board, and commissioners."

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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