Wequetequock Cove Clean Up Inches Ahead With Coalition Grant

Wequetequock Cove (CT Examiner)


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STONINGTON — A coalition of citizens concerned about poor water quality in Wequetequock Cove have received a 15-month, $47,250 grant to raise awareness and develop a plan to clean up the cove, which received among the worst grades for water cleanliness along the Eastern Basin of Long Island Sound in 2020.

The grant, provided to the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District, will be used “to pilot a project to synthesize local water quality data to be used to facilitate a new collaboration” focused on implementing the Anguilla Brook/Inner Wequetequock Cove Watershed-Based Plan.” The grant was funded by the Long Island Community Foundation through the Long Island Sound Stewardship Fund. 

“The purpose of the Plan is to identify sources of fecal coliform bacteria and other common contaminants that have degraded water quality in the Inner Wequetequock Cove, and to provide management recommendations to improve water quality so that the Inner Wequetequock Cove can meet established water quality standards for all its designated uses,” according to the plan executive summary. 

Paul Goetz, a longtime resident of the cove and owner of Stonington Marina, told CT Examiner on Monday that the grant will be used to “organize the community” and to implement the plan recommendations, particularly through the Wequetequock Cove Clean Water Coalition, which met for the first time on July 20

He said that after years of community concern about water quality, failing septic systems, and loss of marine habitat, “we’re getting organized. That’s the good news and exciting news.”

Goetz said forming the coalition represented efforts from conservation groups like Clean Up the Sound and Harbors, known as CUSH, Save the Bay, the Eastern Conn. Conservation District, and others, and area merchants and residents who have expressed concerns about their need for clean drinking water. 

“We’ve had these really dedicated wonderful environmental groups that have been thinking about this for a long time. And then the community is now animated because of anxiety about clean drinking water. So ultimately, what’s powering people’s motivations and drive to make these things happen are the combination of both,” he said.

Goetz said fixing failing septic systems could mean extending the town sewer lines to the area or the installation of modern nitrogen-treating septics that he acknowledged have not yet been approved by the state. Clean drinking water could also involve a connection to town water, he said. 

Another issue is the need for natural flushing of the cove through tidal activity, which Goetz said is greatly reduced because of the small opening under the railroad bridge that separates the cove from the Sound. He said the bridge structure was “decrepit” and if it were replaced and the opening below were widened, then the natural flushing could be restored. 

“We’re also interested in restoring shellfish habitats for filtering natural plant habitats,” he said. “These are some things that we want to work on now. We know it’s going to take a long time but people are dedicated.” 

At the next coalition meeting, Goetz said the group will begin work to adopt a platform that combines the watershed plan recommendations with the community’s interest in clean drinking water, widening the bridge opening, incorporating green infrastructure, and the restoration of native animals and plants like oysters to filter the water. 

“Let’s harmonize them and let’s just expand the tent a little bit so that everyone can see a path toward achieving their goals,” Goetz said. 

The next meeting of the Wequetequock Cove Clean Water Coalition will be on August 28 at 5 p.m. at Stonington Marina, 926 Stonington Road, Stonington. The public is welcome.