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EPA: Pollution is down in Connecticut

March 6, 2019

Toxic pollution in Connecticut and New England has dropped significantly over the last 10 years, according to new numbers released by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA on Tuesday said land, air and water pollution in New England fell by 50 percent between 2007 and 2017 — and by 57 percent in Connecticut.

“Across the six New England states, the data show many positive trends for reductions in toxic chemical releases,” said Deb Szaro, EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator.

While the overall reduction in pollution is impressive, town-by-town comparisons in Connecticut show toxins decreased in some communities and rose in others.

Chemicals discharged into Bridgeport’s air decreased by 90 percent over the decade while air pollution in Danbury increased by 23 percent, for example.

Szaro focused on the positive.

“A robust economy and sound environmental policies can achieve measurable results for better public health protections,” Szaro said, adding environmental regulation and economic growth can work together.

While economic growth and a clean environment can occur at the same time, the EPA is rolling back needed regulations, said Laura McMillan, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

“The current federal administration has repeatedly rolled back environmental protections, loosened enforcement and threatened critical funding” McMillan said.

“Weakening these safeguards could damage our natural resources in ways that would take many, many years and taxpayer dollars to recover from,” she said.

Deregulation

The period analyzed by EPA includes eight years of activist environmental regulation during former President Barack Obama’s tenure.

Since the election of President Donald Trump two years ago, federal air and water regulations have been weakened, most notably in coal-producing regions.

Asked if the proposed regulation rollbacks will affect the future discharge of pollution, EPA Spokesman John Senn said the agency expects to see continuing improvement.

“We anticipate continuing to see positive performance with continued implementation of environmental regulations combined with the trends we’ve seen in 2017 of environmental stewardship practiced by companies across industrial sectors,” Senn said.

A spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection declined comment on the EPA’s numbers.

Privately, state sources said EPA’s release of the pollution data was a public relations ploy by a federal agency under fire for weakening environmental protections.

Connecticut has sued the EPA over failure to enforce air pollution regulations on Midwestern factories, claiming that pollution drifts into the state on the prevailing wind.

The state opposes Trump administration proposals to scale back auto emission standards and air and water regulations enacted by Obama.

Varying success

Town-by-town comparisons in Connecticut for toxins show the pollution numbers vary year to year, with some years higher than others.

Senn said the numbers change from town to town because each community has different facilities that emit pollution.

”If there are only a few facilities, air pollution changes from one facility can have significant changes for an entire community,” Senn said.

Since 2007, EPA said air pollution releases fell 57 percent at industrial facilities submitting data to the agency.

Industrial facilities reported implementing nearly 4,000 new source reduction activities that eliminated or reduced chemical waste, EPA said.

McMillan said projects which update wastewater plants or put scrubbers on smokestacks also create jobs.

“To realize that cycle of improvement, though, we need to maintain strong environmental regulation,” McMillan said.

For information, visit the EPA’s website.

bcummings@ctpost.com