Thursday, April 28, 2005

Pollution in the Norwalk River

It's been said for two decades now that fixing Long Island Sound's sewage plants, which has been progressing relatively well in recent years, will do us little good if we continue to let development pollute the watershed. Eventually the gains made at the treatment plants will be overcome by the contamination from the new growth.

The between-the-lines message from Dick Harris, the director of Harbor Watch/River Watch, seems to be that that is exactly what's happening.

Last year, Harris's volunteers tested the Norwalk River. The Stamford Advocate reported:

... 10 sites on the river had a higher average concentration of the bacteria E. coli last year than state guidelines allow. The group tested at 10 locations from Norwalk to Ridgefield on 16 occasions.

Although I'm not sure what exactly the paper is trying to say (did all 10 "locations" have high readings, or did 10 of the 16 tests result in high readings?), the implication is clear -- the Norwalk River is contaminated.

I realize no one should be yelling "stop the presses" at this news. Which tributary of the Sound is not polluted in some way? Nevertheless it's a reminder of how big a job cleaning up the Sound remains.

Which raises the question: Why has the Connecticut DEP decided to stop funding the Norwalk River monitoring?

(This story's a week old, by the way; I missed it then but caught it this morning via Atlantic Coast Watch.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norwalk river enters the Sound at Norwalk Harbor. Norwalk harbor hosts some of the finest shellfish beds on the East coast. Norwalk harbor water quality is better now than it has been in many years. The tests Dick Harris talks about are upstream from the harbor and he has gotten ecoli counts that are way too high. DEP claims that they have enough sampling data now to set and publish water quality standards for the river. They claim that the funds they were using to help support Harris's program are federal funds and they are only allowed to use them to gather data up to where they are now. They will continue to fund water testing, with federal money, in other locations. It sounds like the folks at DEP don't see regular, continuous monitoring of the Norwalk river as their responsibility any more. Either that, or they don't have the money in their budget. I have a detailed email response from DEP explaining their position. The guy at DEP is Lee Dunbar E-mail Address
I don't know the dollar amount DEP was giving Dick Harris, but it was nowhere near enough and he relied heavily on volunteers and support from other agencies. I'm betting he will continue to test the Norwalk River, although maybe not as often, and will find other support.

6:09 PM  

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