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$85 million program aims to mitigate sewer flooding in North Hartford

Hartford resident and Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition for Economic and Environmental Justice Sharon Lewis during a press conference as Gov. Ned Lamont announced $85 million in state funding to implement a pilot program addressing sewage overflows in streets and basements in North Hartford June 26, 2023
Abigail Brone / Connecticut Public
Hartford resident and Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition for Economic and Environmental Justice Sharon Lewis spoke during a press conference, as Gov. Ned Lamont announced $85 million in state funding to implement a pilot program addressing sewage overflows in streets and basements in North Hartford June 26, 2023.

Sharon Lewis’ parents purchased her family home in Hartford in the 1960s and flooding was a regular concern. Residents like her are chronically impacted by the long-term recurrence of sewer overflows.

Hartford operates under a combined sewer system, in which a single pipe carries both sewage and stormwater for neighborhoods. While the system was common when it was installed in the early 1900s, it is not equipped to handle today’s more intense storms

Now, decades later, North Hartford residents will soon see relief in a years-long battle to get aid in preventing and treating sewage from flooding their basements.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced$85 million in state funding to implement a pilot program addressing sewage overflows in streets and basements in North Hartford.

Lewis, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition for Economic and Environmental Justice, advocated for the program in a professional and personal capacity. On Dec. 4, Lewis’ home was severely damaged by floods during a storm.

“I’m a resident of the flood-prone Northeast area of Hartford, which is always ignored when it comes to flooding and sewage issues,” Lewis said.

Lewis said her home remains uninhabitable more than six months later. She’s lived in a hotel since, but come Friday, she will be essentially homeless.

“Nobody wants to admit that you have other people’s sewage in your basement. I was so horrified,” Lewis said.

Under the new program, Lewis and her team plan to educate residents on where to turn when their homes flood – and what is and isn’t covered by insurance.

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes during a press conference as Gov. Ned Lamont announced $85 million in state funding to implement a pilot program addressing sewage overflows in streets and basements in North Hartford June 26, 2023
Abigail Brone / Connecticut Public
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes during a press conference as Gov. Ned Lamont announced $85 million in state funding to implement a pilot program addressing sewage overflows in streets and basements in North Hartford June 26, 2023

“With the acceleration of climate change and more frequent intense rainstorms, [storms] are overwhelming these sewer systems and causing sewage backups that are devastating to residents and local businesses,” Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “When combined sewer systems are overwhelmed by rainstorms, they're overflowing into urban streams causing street flooding and they're causing sewage to back up into people's basements.”

The funding comes from the state’s Clean Water Fund. Administered by DEEP, the fund is used to provide financial assistance to municipalities for wastewater needs.

It will be applied to 12 projects proposed by the utility owner and operator, called Metropolitan District (MDC), to increase protections from sewer and stormwater-related flooding and backups in North Hartford, according to Dykes.

The projects are estimated to cost about $170 million. Of the 12 projects, five will begin this year.

MDC assured the state resident rates will not increase to accommodate the program.

A separate pilot grant program will also allow residents to apply for funds to fix damage to their homes, Dykes said.

The application process for the pilot grant program has yet to be determined.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.

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