The Connecticut River at Springfield, Massachusetts, on April 3, 2017. Photo by Ryan Caron King for NENC

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont wastewater plants along the Connecticut River are waiting to hear from the Environmental Protection Agency. Even without specifics, managers at the larger plants know they will be required to adjust the amount of nitrogen in their treated wastewater, considerably lowering the levels, potentially at a high cost.

While nitrogen in the river’s freshwater is not a problem, in salt water, too much nitrogen can be deadly to fish and plants. In the 1980s in New England — a decade after the Clean Water Act and federal funds built wastewater treatment plants around the country — nitrogen became a big problem in Long Island Sound, where the 400-mile-long Connecticut River ends.

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