Pequonnock watershed focus of second $40,000 award

Peter Fraboni and Valentina Tudisco of Earthplace Harbor Watch collect water samples from the Pequannock River.

Peter Fraboni and Valentina Tudisco of Earthplace Harbor Watch collect water samples from the Pequannock River.

The health of the Pequonnock River and the West Pequonnock Branch in Monroe is being monitored under a $40,000 award from the State of Connecticut to collect and lab-test water samples over the next three years.

A contract covering the study has been awarded to the Earthplace Harbor Watch of Westport by the Bureau of Water Protection and Land Use Unit of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Harbor Watch maintains a state-certified microbiology lab at Earthplace, the Nature Discovery Center, a nonprofit established 55 years ago that today maintains a 62-acre wildlife sanctuary at 10 Woodside Lane in Westport.

This latest grant follows an earlier $40,000 award — directly to Monroe — by Connecticut DEEP for remediating the stream-side buffer where the same Pequonnock River flows southward into Great Hollow Lake in Wolfe Park.

Site-preparation is supposed to start there in August. A community mobilization of volunteers is set for the spring of 2014 to enhance the topography with plantings of native trees and shrubs.

Two-thirds of the land mass of Monroe drain into the Pequonnock and West Pequonnock River watersheds. Ten locations on the two rivers between Maple Street to the south and northern extremity of Pepper Street have been designated as test sites.

Water samples collected periodically by the Harbor Watch staff and trained volunteers are analyzed for conductivity — an indicator of bacteria — using a process called membrane filtration. They also record other data such as dissolved oxygen levels and air and water temperatures.

The first samples at the 10 locations were collected May 17 by Peter Fraboni, associate director of Harbor Watch, assisted by Valentina Tudisco, 17, a senior at Wilton High School. The results will be forthcoming later. Another excursion on the two rivers was set for May 29.

Both the Monroe Parks and Recreation Department and the Trumbull-Monroe Health District test Great Hollow Lake seasonally for E. coli to determine whether the levels are safe for swimming and bathing. At times, the beach is closed, as are most urban recreational water areas in the Northeast when storm water runoff occurs and carries with it contaminants into the reaching waters.

But the rivers themselves have not been tested regularly other than probes by a private environmental agency several years ago and more recently a series of water samples collected unofficially by volunteers. At a number of points on the rivers and at various times, particularly after heavy rainfalls, the water was impaired or below quality standards, the source of the pollutant loads unknown.

The contract between Earthplace Harbor Watch and Connecticut DEEP stipulates: “Water samples from these local drainage basins will be systematically tested to determine the source of bacteria which could be the result of compromised septic systems or poor pet/animal waste management.”

“The monitoring findings will be presented to local town authorities and we will work with them to rectify or reduce the pollution source.”

“Water is one of our most valuable resources and we must make sure we do everything we can to protect it,” State Representative DebraLee Hovey, who represents Monroe, said. “I’m elated this grant was awarded for the Pequonnock. It will go a long way to helping us protect the water quality and potentially determine where pollutants are coming from so we can address and mediate those issues.”



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