Group leads effort to gauge Connecticut River’s health
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | August 06,2014
SPRINGFIELD — Volunteers up and down the Connecticut River in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts will be out early this morning going for a dip.
They won’t necessarily be getting wet, but they’ll be taking water samples from 55 different locations spread out over 1,000 miles along the river to try and get a “snapshot” of the river’s health.
The “Samplepalooza” is being organized by the Connecticut River Watershed Council, in coordination with three New England states, in an effort to collect data about possible pollutant sources and nutrient loads coming into the main stem of the Connecticut River, as well as its main tributaries.
Andrea Donlon, a river steward with the Connecticut River Watershed Council, which is based in Greenfield, Mass., said the Samplepalooza was slated for last week, but was cancelled because of a major rainstorm in northern New England.
Heavy stream runoff would alter the test results, Donlon said.
“It’s a snapshot in time during a day that doesn’t have a lot of storms, hopefully,” she said. The mostly volunteer effort is looking for pollution “hotspots” along the river that might include municipal water treatment plants, urban areas and farms, to name a few.
In Vermont, she said, the effort includes some state watershed staffers, as well as volunteers.
Kelly Stettner, executive director of the Springfield-based Black River Action Team, will be one of the early risers. She plans on taking her sample of the Black River standing on the Paddock Road Bridge, not too far from her home.
The protocol the volunteers and some state staff workers are using calls for the sampling bucket to be rinsed three times, and to be taken upstream from any bridge.
Stettner, who also samples the river for other environmental monitoring projects, said that she had “a whole bunch of bottles” to fill this morning.
The focus of the Samplepalooza is the pollution and sediment that dump into Long Island Sound, at the mouth of the Connecticut River.
Donlon said there is a large dead zone at the mouth of the river, and there is already a multi-state effort underway to reduce nitrogen pollution along Long Island Sound in an effort to cut down on the algae growing there.
She said that if today’s Samplepalooza is successful, the states may expand the sampling effort to include more volunteer monitoring sites and additional water quality problem areas in the future, or even make it an annual event.
Working with the Connecticut River Watershed Council is the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Today’s tests do not include the Connecticut River in Connecticut since they have already done such samples, Donlon said. But she said the sample sites go from the Massachusetts-Connecticut border in the south to Pittsburg, N.H., in the north.