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Federal Stimulus Money To Help MDC Storm-Water Project In Hartford's North End

JOSH KOVNER

April 29, 2009

The state has tapped a Metropolitan District Commission project designed to keep sewage from flowing into basements and waterways in Hartford's North End to receive most of the $48.5 million in federal stimulus money earmarked for Clean Water Act work in Connecticut.

State officials explained the decision to fund the sewer and storm-water separation project by saying that it's easier to track job retention and creation by designating one major stimulus project.

The MDC told The Courant earlier this month that two of the five phases of the work on the aging, flood-prone sewer system would create 54 jobs, based on estimates from the subcontractor. There were no projections for the other three phases.

Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said that the MDC is prepared to meet the reporting and accountability requirements of the national stimulus program.

Dr. Mark Mitchell, a physician and president of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, said that the project is important for north Hartford an area vulnerable to sewage overflows into basements, streams and the Connecticut River after heavy rains.

"It's the largest of these sewer separation projects in the state," Mitchell said Tuesday. "The MDC is committed to the hiring of Hartford residents and people of color and that's important. It's also an investment in the infrastructure."

Mitchell, the former director of the Hartford health department, is a member of the Community Advisory Committee a citizens' group that provides input and oversight for the MDC's north Hartford project.

"There's a lot of money," he said, "and we want to see that it's transparent."

The district's sewer and storm water separation work will receive a $24 million grant and a $14.3 million loan from the Clean Water money part of $3 billion in stimulus funds that will flow into the state over the next two years.

The remaining $9.7 million of the Clean Water money will go to a combination of renewable-energy projects at water treatment plants, including one that the MDC is doing.

The MDC was initially expected to receive all $48.5 million, but the project alone didn't satisfy a federal rule that 20 percent of the stimulus money go to energy-conservation efforts. The DEP then brought in a few small renewable-energy projects to meet the threshold.

The MDC's work in north Hartford is a $60 million project. The balance of the money for the work is coming from state funds.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said in a news release that using the Clean Water stimulus money allowed the state to stretch its dollars and reach other projects that have been waiting for funding, such as sewer and storm water separation work in Bridgeport, New Haven and Middletown.

Through a combination of the stimulus money, state funds, and proceeds from bond sales, the state has $270 million available for clean-water projects, Rell said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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