Through the Commonwealth’s Community Compact Cabinet, nine communities in Western Massachusetts have joined together to create a regional approach to wastewater and stormwater management. The Connecticut River communities of Agawam, Chicopee, Granby, Hadley, Ludlow, Northampton, Southwick, Springfield, and West Springfield, along with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), will receive $111,550 from the Efficiency and Regionalization Grant Program to fund their project. The project aims to design a framework for nitrogen trading and to address stormwater requirements regionally, rather than each community independently.
Typically, credits are “determined by the difference between the discharge limit and the actual discharge over a set period” (The Environmental Trading Network). Nitrogen trading allows wastewater treatment facilities to buy and sell credits with other facilities to discharge nitrogen. This would allow a facility to purchase necessary credits if it is unable to meet its permit’s nitrogen limits without building additional infrastructure. PVPC’s Principal Environmental Planner, Patty Gambarini, explained that “some wastewater treatment plants have very small land area and the cost of expanding their facility to do this higher degree of treatment for nitrogen could be very expensive, whereas some wastewater treatment plants have more space and could do updates to treat to even to a higher degree and treat [its wastewater] with those who would like to buy credits” (The Reminder). Working collectively will allow the communities to pool their resources and staff to address water quality in the Connecticut River watershed more efficiently and adequately.
As previously reported, Massachusetts communities along the Connecticut River are facing more stringent National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), particularly for nitrogen limits. These stricter regulations are tied to water quality issues, not only in Massachusetts, but also in the Long Island Sound watershed in Connecticut and New York. EPA is studying eutrophication in the Long Island Sound and is developing a Nitrogen Reduction Strategy to improve dissolved oxygen levels in the open waters. While communities bordering the Sound are collaborating to address this issue, little effort has been made to reach out to these upstream communities in Massachusetts.
MCWRS applauds the Connecticut River communities for collaborating on this initiative to address a common struggle in the most efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable manner. We are pleased that the Baker-Polito Administration continues to expand funding opportunities and cooperative programs that help tackle water resources issues. Attend our 8th Annual Water Resources Strategies Symposium on May 17 to hear a panel discussion on nitrogen trading with a representative from Connecticut’s successful program. Invited speakers may also include a representative from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.