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Green Infrastructure in Bridgeport

Bridgeport’s Sewage and Stormwater Challenges

CSO outfall
One of the many outflow pipes that empty combined sewage overflow into Bridgeport waterways after heavy rains.

Almost 86% of Bridgeport’s land area is covered with impermeable surfaces like roads, parking lots, sidewalks, and roofs, which generate a lot of stormwater run-off. Bridgeport’s existing combined sewage and stormwater system puts local streams, Bridgeport Harbor, and natural resources in Long Island Sound at environmental harm during every substantial rain event. Because the system capacity cannot meet the combined demand of sewage and stormwater, a slurry of 370 million gallons of mixed sewage overflows directly into Bridgeport’s waterways, on average, every year. Water quality in Bridgeport’s coastal area is poor as classified by the Connecticut Department of Engergy and Environmental Protection (a rating of SC/SB); a result of water quality criteria not being met due to pollution levels. As a result, shellfish beds and beaches are frequently closed after rain events, and marine life in Long Island Sound suffers.

Combined Sewage Overflows in Bridgeport
A map of the combined sewage overflows (CSO) throughout Bridgeport.

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BGreen2020 Sustainability Plan: Moving Towards a Solution

BGreen LogoIn 2010 the City of Bridgeport launched the innovative BGreen 2020 initiative, a Sustainability Plan that outlines the policies and actions to be implemented in the next decade to improve the quality of life, social equity, and economic competitiveness of the city, while reducing harmful impacts to the environment.  Part of the plan addresses making improvements to the region’s waterways through enhanced stormwater management and use of green infrastructure:

“Managing the city’s stormwater and preventing Combined Sewer Overflows will require a combination of traditional infrastructure and green infrastructure investments. While new development should be held to the highest standards of low-impact development, investments in the public realm including expansion of the urban tree canopy, incorporation of rain gardens and swales into street design, and the use of permeable pavement will each mitigate the need for some underground investment in separated and larger pipes.”

To learn more about BGreen2020 and to download the full plan, please visit Regional Plan Association's website

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Green Infrastructure Scan by Hazen and Sawyer and Save the Sound

A feasibility scan was conducted for Bridgeport to evaluate the potential of green infrastructure to reduce wet-weather sewage overflows within the City. Specifically, the study intended to address green infrastructure source controls available for implementation, an implementation framework, small-scale and neighborhood demonstration projects, green infrastructure costs and benefits, funding mechanisms, and opportunities for job creation. Results of the feasibility scan conclude that green infrastructure can serve as an effective approach to managing and reducing combined sewage overflows within Bridgeport.

You can read more about Bridgeport's Green Infrastructure Feasibility Scan by downloading the full report here.

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Bridgeport Pursues Downtown Green Infrastructure Project

The dense downtown area of Bridgeport, which is serviced by a combined sewer system, presents many obstacles to large scale grey infrastructure implementation, making green infrastructure alternatives desirable. There are a variety of opportunities for green infrastructure implementation within the downtown area of Bridgeport, specifically within the area bound by Park Avenue, John Street, Broad Street, and Interstate 95. With future sewer separation efforts planned for this area, this neighborhood concept presents an opportunity to implement green infrastructure in advance or in tandem with separation efforts. There are also several projects already planned or currently underway in this vicinity that facilitates the development of this area as a green infrastructure neighborhood.

The large rooftop and courtyard areas at the Housatonic Community College and Housatonic Art Museum present opportunities for the installation of blue and green roofs, as well as bioretention areas. Other possible opportunities include incorporating green infrastructure with the renovation of the public library roof, renovation of the City Hall Annex roof, and a complete street design for Park Avenue.

Save the Sound, the City of Bridgeport, and the Bridgeport Water Pollution Control Authority are working collaboratively to plan and develop downtown green infrastructure projects, and identify partners, grants and funding sources.

The highlighted area in downtown Bridgeport has been identified as a potential area for the implementation of green infrastructure demonstration projects.

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How Do I Build a Rain Garden in Bridgeport?

Bridgeport residents can help reduce the harmful effects of stormwater runoff by building a rain garden on their own property. To learn how you can construct residential rain garden in your yard, please go to the rain garden section of this website as developed by UConn’s NEMO program.

Bridgeport Rain Garden Permitting Guidance

In Bridgeport, gardening is exempt from coastal zone permit requirements so there are no special permits that must be obtained from the city in order to build and plant a rain garden.  However, there are regulations that must be adhered to when building a rain garden:

  • Grading and Excavation Regulations (1317.06). 

Protection of Adjacent Property: Adjacent properties shall be protected from damage due to grading operations.  No person shall excavate on land sufficiently close to the property line to endanger any adjoining public street, sidewalk, alley or other public or private property, without supporting and protecting such property from any damage that might result.

  • Corner Lot Requirements (1317.02(c)).

No obstruction to vision exceeding two feet in height such as buildings, fences, trees, plants, signs, etc. shall be erected or maintained on any lot within the triangle formed by the street intersection, created by the right-of-way line of each street extended to a point and a line drawn between two points each located twenty-five feet from the street intersection.

A rain garden at Bridgeport's Aquaculture School.

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How Do I Install a Rain Barrel in Bridgeport?

Another way that Bridgeport residents can help reduce the harmful effects of stormwater runoff is by installing a rain barrel on their property. Rain barrels hook up to a house's downspout and capture rain water that is otherwise lost to storm drains. The collected water can be stored for later use or diverted back into the landscape.

  • Learn all about rain barrels and how to install one at your house by clicking here.

  • The Mayor's Conservation Corps of Bridgeport rolled out a rain barrel program in 2010. The barrels are free for low-income families. If you're above the income threshold, you pay about $30. If you live in Bridgeport and you'd like to know more about the rain barrel program, please call (203) 576-7301.

  • The Aquarion Water Company ended a promotional rain barrel program for local residents in 2012, but they hope to have back up and running next year.

Rain Barrel

An example of decorated rain barrels hooked up to a downspout (Photo credit: Chesapeake Ecology Center)

Bridgeport Green Infrastructure Atlas

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