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Hartford residents push for transparency as sewage and flooding concerns escalate to legislature

A crew contracted under MDC replaces pipes under Vine Street in the North End of Hartford.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
A crew contracted through the Metropolitan District Commission replaces pipes under Vine Street in the North End of Hartford.

A new bill is generating support from Hartford’s North End advocates who are seeking systemic changes after what they’ve described as years of sewage and flooding problems in their community.

Activist Bridgitte Prince says the proposal under consideration in the Connecticut legislature has bipartisan support and was introduced by state Rep. Tom Delnicki, R-South Windsor.

The bill, in its initial draft, calls for a number of actions, including forming a task force to examine the operation of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), requiring annual audits by the Auditors of Public Accounts and enforcing of a code of ethics.

In public testimony earlier this month, MDC’s district counsel, Christopher R. Stone, opposed the legislation. He said many of the measures are redundant, noting that MDC is already independently audited annually and has an established code of ethics. He described the legislation as generally unnecessary and said it could cause harm.

The legislative action comes as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) met with North End residents in February.

After several community meetings with officials and complaints from the community, the Greater Hartford NAACP demanded the city of Hartford, the MDC, the state Department of Public Health, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the EPA take “necessary actions to right these wrongs.”

“We cannot continue to ignore the fact that these issues are not isolated incidents but rather the result of a long history of systemic discrimination and neglect,” the NAACP said.

Advocates said the sewage and flooding issues in the North End are due to discrimination and inaction. J. Stan McCauley, president of the Greater Hartford African American Alliance, said these are known and ongoing issues of racial and environmental justice.

“The Black and brown community in North End Hartford winds up being the community that is discriminated against because someone made the decision to put them last on the list,” McCauley said. “But the sewage separation from the clean water has more to do with ensuring that nitrogen is not discharged into the Connecticut River.”

Prince said the sewage and flooding problems have been exacerbated by climate change and extreme weather events, further compounding the harm inflicted on these communities.

“We are bracing ourselves because of the storm season, which comes in the spring and the summer, to see what happens because climate change is not only coming, it’s here,” she said.

The proposal has received bipartisan support, including from state Rep. Geraldo Reyes Jr., D-Waterbury.

“I am backing a bill proposed to expand the existing law’s scope and strengthen the language,” Reyes said. “We are all aware that power plants, sewage treatment centers, waste incinerators and landfills are disproportionately causing harm to low-income communities and communities of color throughout Connecticut.”

Meanwhile, in Hartford, Councilman Thomas “TJ” Clarke II said a city resolution has been introduced to create a sustainability plan and implement new environmental measures.

The EPA, which has been inspecting the MDC, told Connecticut Public it expects to complete its report this month.

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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