When industrial facilities violate the Clean Water Act by illegally polluting waterways, CLF initiates lawsuits through its Enforcement Project. As these suits are settled, CLF holds violators financially accountable in a unique way. Industrial facilities can fund a supplemental environmental project, or SEP, which benefits public health and the environment.
In the Mystic River Watershed, SEP funds are being used to measure the river’s phosphorus levels – too much phosphorus causes toxic algae blooms, promotes invasive plants such as water chestnut, and chokes oxygen supplies needed by fish and other species.
“We need to reduce the amount of phosphorus being put into the Mystic River” said Katrina Sukola, watershed scientist for the Mystic River Watershed Association. To do so, the group is developing a calculation, called a total maximum daily load, of how much phosphorus the river can receive and still meet water-quality standards. The responsible parties will be asked to reduce phosphorus in stormwater over a period of time to meet this benchmark. “This will be a legally binding agreement that holds municipalities and industries responsible for reducing pollutants,” said Sukola. “It’s one of the best ways to clean up the river.” Developing the calculation is a multi-year process, but the SEP grant is helping to kick off this costly effort by funding necessary equipment and lab fees.