Watershed Association benefits from legal settlement
By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD -- Clean Water Action flooded the Westfield River Watershed Association (WRWA) with a $20,000 settlement last Saturday, concluding a multi-year legal battle with Connecticut Valley Block Company of West Springfield.
Clean Water Action settled its citizen suit filed in 2007 against the Connecticut Valley Block Company -- which allegedly failed to prevent contaminated stormwater runoff from discharging into a pond connected to the Westfield River -- and named WRWA as a beneficiary of the settlement.
"The goal of the [citizen] suit is to achieve pollution prevention," Becky Smith, water program coordinator for Clean Water Action Alliance, said. "The most effective way to protect public health and ecological health [is to implement pollution prevention practices]. We want to correct pollution practices and when [a settlement] can benefit organizations that have a hands-on role with the affected water body, that's a bonus."
Bill Rose, president of the WRWA, said the money will be used over a number of years to complete five goals: expansion of the association's annual cleanup; additional storm drain labeling; chemical and physical water quality monitoring; a biodiversity survey; and possible land acquisition along the river.
Kathy Meyer, board member of the WRWA, said these funds will also help to educate residents about water pollution prevention.
"The largest source of water pollution comes from contaminated stormwater runoff, most of [which] is coming from households," she explained. "People do things all the time like washing cars and letting [the water] run down to the storm drain [which goes directly] into the river. The only thing that should go down there is rain."
Rose explained that chemical and physical water quality monitoring funded by the settlement will pinpoint hazardous pollutants, if any, that are harming the river. He added that the biodiversity survey will identify vegetation and animals that are flourishing or are in need of protection.
Meyer said the WRWA will be working in conjunction with the Winding River Land Conservancy to explore possible land acquisitions along the Westfield River.
For more information about the WRWA or to attend events, visit www.westfieldriver.org