The CT Council on Environmental Quality’s annual report on environmental conditions came out today. The summary paints a mostly negative picture. While the state has continued to clean up the Sound, and “many municipalities are innovating and working hard to reduce runoff, reduce petroleum consumption, recycle garbage, and improve and preserve habitats,” there are three big problems that stand in the way of further progress.
One is the climate, that is, more heat and more extremes of drought and rain. “Heat is a problem because it leads to the production of ground-level ozone, the most injurious of Connecticut’s remaining air pollution problems. Heat also warms watercourses and Long Island Sound. Oxygen conditions in the deep Sound were nearly the worst they had been in the last ten years.” And heavy rains “wash uncounted tons of pollution into streams and rivers.”
This runoff is exacerbated by a second problem, our roads and parking lots. “The task of reducing runoff from already-developed areas, while doable (and to some extent required in most municipalities), requires decades. Lawns can be transformed into environmentally-helpful features more quickly, but widespread change is not evident.” There is a Stormwater Education Kit that contains a great deal of information on improving one’s lawn. Click here for a short summary of EPA stormwater recommendations, and here for ideas for improving a sloped lawn.
The third big problem is “lack of investment in land conservation and management. ‘Investment’ does not mean money only, as there is no effective strategy in place to effectively spend (a hypothetical) windfall. … The small size of the average parcel of land in Connecticut renders current conservation strategies unrealistic. Connecticut will adopt new approaches or fail to reach its conservation goals.”
Then there is a fourth problem: the Trump administration and the states to our south and west. Less energy efficiency and more fuel combustion in these states “would lead to the types of air pollution that generally blow toward Connecticut.” And a cut in federal grants, which “have been used very effectively by this state to improve Long Island Sound, protect forests and farmland, put economic life back into contaminated properties and restore wildlife habitats along coves and rivers,” could be harmful to the future of the state’s environment.
The Progress and Problems section of the summary ends very sadly:
The potential for retreat is an unusual and regrettable reality. The Council always focuses attention on the steps that are necessary for conditions to improve; this year, it must conclude that gains already made are now in peril.
Things don’t look good right now, but there are a lot of things each of us in our homes, and all of us working together through the state’s many environmental organizations and through our municipal and state governments, can do to limit environment backsliding and continue to improve our land and water conservation practices, and limit the amount we pollute air and water and add carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.