Saturday, October 29, 2011

We Need a Simple, Understandable Way to Compile and Report Water Quality Info from the Sound's Harbors

Someone should determine how many local water quality testing programs there are in harbors and bays around Long Island Sound, and devise a process to collect the data and report them online quickly and understandably.

Adrienne Esposito, of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, talked about the need for this at yesterday’s Long Island Sound Citizens Summit, in Bridgeport.

Coincidentally in today’s Norwalk Hour there was a story about Harbor Watch, which, under the direction of Dick Harris, has been collecting data in Norwalk and Westport, since the mid 1980s. I thought it was a good idea when Adrienne said it yesterday, and when I read the Hour story and started searching for more information, I thought it was an even better idea.

I also think it’s a great idea for grant funding, maybe from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, for a grad student or a smart intern at the environmental organization. Here’s why I think that:

After reading the Hour story, I Googled Dick Harris and Harbor Watch and learned that Harbor Watch is a program of Earthplace, a great-sounding nature center-environmental education organization in Westport (which I was only vaguely aware of). The Harbor Watch page on the Earthplace website explains the water quality testing program beautifully.

But as I was noting to myself that the explanation was perfectly clear, I was also thinking: where’s the data? One paragraph says they send the data to the Connecticut DEEP, which is good, although given the reality of staff cuts at the DEEP, who knows what they do with it. Then about three-quarters of the way down the page, I found this paragraph:

Each month HW/RW compiles a water quality report on data collected at 10 established water-sampling sites. Thanks to the Norwalk River Watershed Association (NRWA), these reports are available at The reports contain information on indicator bacteria levels, dissolved oxygen conditions, and conductivity. and also says it provides its data to the Norwalk River Watershed Association.

Beautiful. Exactly what I wanted. So I clicked. And I found this at the top of the page:

New: View water quality readings for the months of May 2008 through Sept. 2008
The Norwalk River Watershed Project Water Quality Report for the April-May 2004 monitoring period …

Which is not quite as up-to-date as I had hoped.

I’m not criticizing Dick Harris, Earthplace or the Norwalk River Watershed Association even slightly. They just happened to be in the news on a morning I was thinking about this. Logically, I could no more expect them to take on a consistent, easy-to-understand public reporting project than they could expect me to take on a 25-year data collection program in Norwalk Harbor.

And yet their data is being collected, as is data collected elsewhere (by Friends of the Bay, on Long Island, for example).

It would be really useful if it were compiled, made understandable, and put online.


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