E. Coli In Westport’s Waters: Here’s The Poop

First the bad news: Of 20 rivers in 17 Fairfield County towns, 77% exceed one or both of Connecticut’s criteria for acceptable levels of E. coli. The bacteria can indicate the presence of sewage pollution.

The slightly better news: The Saugatuck River had the lowest percentage of failing sites.

The worse news: Muddy Brook — which drains into Sherwood Mill Pond — was one of 8 rivers tied for the most bacteria. (The others: Bruce Brook, Deep Brook, Goodwives River, Greenwich Creek, Keelers Brook, Pootatuck River and Rooster River.)

The Saugatuck River gets high marks from Harbor Watch. (Drone photo copyright Ben Berkley/@youreyeabove

That’s this morning’s news from Harbor Watch. The group — Earthplace’s water quality research program — studied data from 169 stations, at those 20 rivers. They released their report this morning.

Harbor Watch director Dr. Sarah Crosby says: “The high incidence of failing bacteria concentrations shows us that there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve water quality in the Long Island Sound watershed.”

No s—.

(Click here to read the full report.)

26 responses to “E. Coli In Westport’s Waters: Here’s The Poop

  1. Congrats to the Harbor Watch team for the important work they do in our community!!!

  2. Saddened, but not surprised, that Westport’s Deadmans Brook has become a bacteria transfer device. As a sidebar, Winslow Park, which abuts the brook, must be an E coli superfund site. It seems more likely than not that this once beautiful but now broken, washed out husk of a park is not helping the brook’s water quality numbers.

  3. “Pootatuck River” in a story about intestinal bacteria? That has got to be a joke.

  4. Why wasn’t the Aspetuck River included?

    • Hi Bill, I am the Director of Harbor Watch. Unfortunately the scope of our testing is limited by available funding and the relatively small size of our team, so we aren’t able to test every river each year that we may want to. I hope that we can expand to include the Aspetuck in the future!

  5. Susan Meuchner

    Maybe part of this health issue is due to the homeowners who do not clean their septic systems. I live across from a resident who has a non functioning system. We live here five years and discovered the previous owner also filed complaints. We also live in a wetland area. So, is it time to clean up and enforce. The town needs to clean up it’s act too. We have contacted numerous departments and this is just a paper shuffle. I think the septic issue is bigger than people realize.

  6. Werner Liepolt

    What does this mean for local shellfish and other aquaculture ventures?

    • @Werner exactly what I was thinking. Has anyone contacted the Department of Agriculture to inquire? Hopefully Jeff can comment about Hummock Island Oysters?

      • Oysters are known to filter pollution and purify water.
        Please look at the video article below which I’ve seen repeated in other demonstrations and with Long Island Sound water.

        • Maybe the water is made cleaner but wouldn’t the contaminants have to go somewhere? I.e. in the oysters? I would expect to find an even higher concentration in the oysters compared with tests of the water. Shellfish that is cooked is probably of little worry but shellfish that is eaten raw (i.e. oysters) would be of concern.

  7. Nathaniel Martin

    Muddy Brook runs next to and behind 20 & 26 Morningside, the site of the proposed 8-30(g) cluster development. Muddy Brook is already one of the most contaminated waterways in Fairfield County with regard to sewage pollution and bacterial contamination. A full 100% of the samples taken on Muddy Brook exceeded CTDEEP contamination standards for E. coli. In fact, 4 of the 6 samples had significantly higher levels than the prior rounds of sampling in 2017, indicating a deterioration of environmental quality in the brook from the already high historic levels.

    Muddy Brook is already suffering from significant environmental impairment with contamination levels far in excess of state standards. And this is occurring with the significant environmental benefits currently accruing from the open space at 20 & 26 Morningside. The proposed project will significantly increase runoff due to the near complete impervious groundcover of the proposed project. The project cannot be allowed to proceed, or the already unacceptable amount of pollution in our waterways, including Sherwood Millpond and the Long Island Sound (which Muddy Brook flows into), will grow to even more extreme and toxic levels. This risks further ecological, environmental and recreational impairment, as well as the productive commercial oyster fishery in the Millpond.

    I have brought this new report to the attention of Planning and Zoning and I encourage others to make their voices heard.

    • Planning & Zoning. Good luck. When I made a complaint they advised me they only deal with newer homes. Sounds like they are in the pockets of development only.

  8. I found this fascinating what oysters can do to clean up and purify water.

  9. Oysters, mussels, calms all bivalve shellfish can filter and purify water. I found another well written article.


  10. Captain Jeff Northrop

    Ok, here’s the official comment from Hummock Island Shellfish: the report on Muddy Brook is not news to us, we have been part of D.O.A’ S
    sampling for over 20 years. When each administration gets outraged and calls for more studies, we, Hummock Island Shellfish and Westport Aquaculture actually put our hands in our pockets and do something.
    Everyone in our town should be outraged, the laws are on the books.
    We have an excellent Conservation Dept., headed by Alicia Mozian,who has dedicated her life to Westport’s environmental health, we have had Dick Harris who has tested Muddy Brook for 30 years, but in the end the developers always win. I have fought for the Millpond for the past 50 years.
    With the taxes I and the other owners around the pond pay, we should be able to drink the water.
    As far as our oysters go, the majority of the sewage from Muddy Brook exits the pond through Burying Hill and doesn’t affect the front of the pond where the oysters grow.
    The fact that our immensely wealthy town in this day and age allows this to continue is a sin. All of us Westporters should be ashamed. Call our Selectmens office, tell your RTM members, be “mad as hell”!

    • Werner Liepolt

      Absolutely on target. Westport should not betray or abuse its historic roots or the natural productivity of our place. We all lose immeasurably when our connection to the water and land is polluted, when our connection to our past is severed.

  11. Sharon Paulsen

    Unfortunately, this is not just a Westport/Fairfield county problem, in terms of serious global issues with water “quality/safety”, availability, in general.

    Pick your “local problem” (feces, agri-runoff, lead, infrastructure, fracking and depletion of underground aquifers) just name a very short few.

    It’s still the same end game … toxic water = crappy life on earth, including the creatures of our delicate ecosystem, which support everything on this planet.

    The Oceans are currently in peril, but it’s not headline news.

    Without water, without the ecosystem remaining healthy and in tact, without an atmosphere to blanket us from the vacuum of space … we are all dead.

    Yes, obvious to some … but not enough of us?

    It’s not a topic for the faint at heart, or anyone who may be either incorrectly informed about this, or are incurious, or in denial.

    These individual/local findings have a way of speaking volumes to me, in these ways I mention above.

    Boy oh boy, is it ever the time, right now, to correct the entire way in which we live on this earth?

    Anyone else depressed about all this? Raise your emoji “thumbs” 👍 if so.

    Can we fix it … I believe it’s possible, but perhaps not probable, continuing along as we do (“we” being mostly the big influencers/big money of the world stage).

    As individuals, our voices and votes are being squandered in insidious ways … that’s the long game, the slow boiled “frog in a pot of water” analogy.

    I do apologize for my dark rant here … but I feel like it needs to be said … over and over … on some level, until everyone is “woke” (and getting out of that pot of slow boiled water, before it’s too late).

    • I hear you, Sharon. As I live on one of the failing water courses featured in this study, I’ve often noticed residents dumping debris into the water over the years; dog feces, yard waste, charcoal, and so on. In the fall time, Dead Mans Brook sometimes resembles a giant leaf conveyor belt as landscapers push everything that isn’t nailed down into the stream. We used to have all these little creatures living in the brook. It’s pretty much a dead zone these days.

  12. For them that give a damn, see today’s NYT article on Trump’s new bill to “weaken the EPA”S control over water pollution.”
    Another milestone in that bastard’s march toward the destruction of our democratic republic.

  13. I know the Health District was trying to get a grant a couple of years ago- I think it was approved – to trace back the sources of e coli in our waters (eg did it come from animals (and which kind – wild or house pets)? Was it from human contamination? Refuse? It would be interesting to know if they were able to complete that study, and if so what the results showed.

  14. Does anyone know if this would also cause the awful stench at compo this summer?

  15. Maybe low tide but going to compo for 33 years it never seemed this bad