OLR Research Report

February 8, 2008




By: Paul Frisman, Principal Analyst

You asked why Lake Pocotopaug is considered an impaired waterbody and whether funding is available to remediate it.


Lake Pocotopaug, in East Hampton, is considered impaired for recreational use because of excessive algal growth. Funding to remediate such lakes is generally available from several sources, but the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) states that a typical grant may not be sufficient to address Lake Pocotopaug's problem. Funding for remediation also may be authorized by special act.


Section 305(b) of the federal Clean Water Act (33 USC 1251) requires each state to monitor, assess, and report to Congress on the quality of its waters relative to designated uses established by the state's water quality standards. Section 303(d) of the act requires each state to rank these waters for the purposes of developing a total maximum daily load (TMDL) or other management strategy. A TMDL sets the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive without adverse impact to fish, wildlife, recreation, or other uses.

Lake Pocotopaug is one of 279 waterbodies DEP listed as impaired in its 2006 report to Congress. The full report can be found at

Lake Pocotopaug's impairment is attributed to three causes: (1) chlorophyll-a, (2) excess algal growth, and (3) nutrient/eutrophication biological indicators. These are indicators of eutrophication, a process where waterbodies receive excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth. This enhanced plant growth, often called an algal bloom, depletes dissolved oxygen in the water when the dead plants decompose. This causes fish and other organisms to die, and reduces water clarity. Abundant algae on the lake can also block the passage of sunlight, inhibiting plant growth in deeper water.

The 2006 report indicated that DEP could not specify the sources of these impairments. However, both DEP and East Hampton's environmental consultant say stormwater runoff carrying phosphorous and other nutrients into the 500-acre lake is responsible for the excessive algae growth. Such runoff is called nonpoint source pollution because it does not come from a discrete source, such as an industrial or sewage discharge pipe.

Potential phosphorous sources, besides those occurring naturally, include lawn fertilizer and bacteria and nutrients from pet wastes and faulty septic systems. Stormwater and snow melt carry these to the lake from residential lawns and impervious surfaces, such as driveways and streets.


The legislature has so far appropriated a total of $100,000 to study the eutrophication at Lake Pocotopaug (SA 05-1, June Special Session, and PA 99-242). According to DEP, East Hampton has used this money to contract with a consultant who has conducted several studies of the lake. These studies can be found at the web site:

State funding for remediation could come either from the DEP's Nonpoint Source ( 319) grant program or from the Lake Grant program. According to DEP, funds for the former program are used to address documented nonpoint source impairments. Funding priority is given to development of implementation plans, TMDL analyses, or watershed-based plans. However, according to DEP's Chuck Lee, the scope of remediation required at Lake Pocotopaug may exceed the typical program grants.

The Lake Grant program provides matching grants for lake restoration studies and projects at lakes that have public access. Funding comes from the state Bond Commission and varies according to individual project costs and available funding. According to Lee, DEP is asking the commission to allocate about $1.25 million for this program. Lee notes, however, that Lake Pocotopaug would be ineligible for this program because it restricts lake access to town residents. He also notes that the money, if allocated, would be spread among a number of municipalities.

Qualifying municipalities also may finance lake restoration projects with funding from the Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) or Urban Action bonds. Funding also may be available through passage of a special act. More information on these funding sources is provided in OLR Reports 2006-R- 0302 and 99-R-0918 (attached).

Nonpoint pollution sources also can be reduced by implementing prevention measures, such as reducing the use of fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides, keeping septic systems in proper working order, planting vegetative buffers, discouraging the feeding of water birds, and proper pet waste management.

More information on lake water quality programs is available at the following DEP website: More information on relevant DEP grant programs can be found at: