38 miles of meandering water; a 165 square mile watershed in 14 municipalities; 913 acres of tidal marsh; 20 tributaries. The Quinnipiac River is a considerable natural asset in the center of a highly urbanized and developed area. From Farmington’s Deadwood Swamp to the New Haven Harbor, the Quinnipiac offers great beauty, opportunity and bio-diversity, right in our own backyard. Views abound in the broad estuary. Fishing and hiking are popular in the Quinnipiac River Gorge. The expansive tidal marshes are home to a surprising diversity of wildlife including more than half of the bird species listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern in Connecticut.
For more than a century, the Quinnipiac has been burdened by heavy-use and industrialization. In 1886, the Quinnipiac River was the subject of Connecticut’s first recorded pollution control legislation – a measure that prohibited Meriden from discharging raw sewage into the river and resulted in the construction of the state’s first sewage treatment plant. The Clean Water Act in 1967 and further legislation has improved wastewater treatment. Despite controls in point source pollution, problems still exist with sewer overflows and upsets. As well, a broader and often less-identifiable type of pollution now threatens the river’s vitality.
Nonpoint source pollution has many forms. Surface runoff and groundwater pollution from major highways, roads and fertilized lawns; leachate from old landfills and hazardous waste sites; illegal dumping in the woodlands and streams; and even pet waste all contribute to the pollution, adding damaging sediments, nutrients, pathogens and toxins to the river water. Coastal development also adds to the problem, often increasing stormwater runoff and erosion.
Today, there are groups and individuals who are working to help meet these goals – to improve Quinnipiac’s water quality and overall ecological health. Among these, the Quinnipiac River Fund at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven helps lead the efforts by distributing over $100,000 annually to projects that conserve and protect the River and surrounding watersheds.