Sharon Lewis
Sharon Lewis, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition for Economic and Environmental Justice Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut officials responded Monday to years of flooded basements and sewage overflows in Hartford’s North End by announcing $85 million in funding to offset the costs of projects to bolster the Metropolitan District’s water infrastructure and the sewage system.

The funding, announced during a midday press conference on the front lawn of a Granby Street residence, will subsidize 12 MDC projects scheduled to begin over the next two years. The state support will offset a total cost of around $170 million, allowing the regional water company to make the improvements without raising its current rates.

The support was a long time coming for residents of the city’s North End, many of whom have experienced financial hardship and property damage caused by years of recurring floods and sewage backups. 

“For far too long, our community has borne the brunt of sewer and stormwater-related flooding, severely impacting our lives, our property values and our wellbeing,” Sharon Lewis, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition for Economic and Environmental Justice, said.

Much of the funds will be spent through a pilot program to perform improvements on some 3,500 private properties that connect with the sewer system, according to a press release from the governor’s office. Those projects will include emergency repairs to sewer lateral pipes and the installation of backflow preventers. 

Lewis, a resident of Hartford, said she had been displaced from her own home since sewage flooded into it in December. She said she was horrified to find herself homeless and facing uninsured losses as a result of the backup.

In addition to the infrastructure funding, officials announced a separate $5 million grant program intended to assist Hartford residents who have been impacted by flooding since 2021. Comptroller Sean Scanlon, whose office will be overseeing the program, said information about the application process would be available in the coming weeks.

Sen. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

During Monday’s press conference, members of Hartford’s legislative delegation said the funding was the result of their concerted efforts and the advocacy of community activists. 

“I’m happy that this is a good start but I’m disappointed that it took this long,” Sen. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford, said. “Our basement is flooded ever since I was a child. Everybody passed the buck to the next person.”

House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said a community meeting on the flooding issue exposed a “frayed” trust between residents and their elected representatives.

“I remember that first meeting and the emotion and the tension,” Ritter said. “It didn’t bother me, I wasn’t angered by it. What it said to me is we gotta do something. People are at their wit’s end.”

Ned Lamont
Gov. Ned Lamont Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Gov. Ned Lamont said he heard “loud and clear” from the Hartford community and believed the state assistance was long overdue.

“Listening to these stories, I’m sorry and ashamed how long it took us to get here,” Lamont said. “But we’re here now and we’re not leaving until we get it right … If there was sewage bubbling up in a basement of Guilford or Greenwich, they’d be getting that fixed overnight. Well, we’re going to be getting it fixed right here on Granby Street and beyond.”

In a press release, Scott Jellison, CEO of the Metropolitan District Commission, said the MDC was confident that projects to remove stormwater from the sewage system would address the recurring overflows. 

“MDC cannot solve the ever-changing severe rain events caused by climate change, however with this partnership, Harford Region can mitigate the impacts by setting the standard and acknowledging its impacts to the sewer system,” Jellison said.