Harbor Watch — the Earthplace-based research and education program — has just released a study of water quality in rivers throughout Fairfield County. All 4 of the Westport rivers studied are not as healthy as they look.
Muddy Brook — which discharges into Sherwood Mill Pond — and Pussy Willow Brook, a Mill Pond tributary, exceeded state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection criteria for E. coli.
Two rivers empty into Sherwood Mill Pond. (Drone photo/Patrick Sikes)
Sasco Brook failed DEEP criteria for bacteria. So did the Saugatuck River — which, with 2 sewage spills last summer, also showed elevated Enterococci concentrations.
The good news: our rivers are pretty good in terms of dissolved oxygen. That’s an important water quality indicator, because many aquatic species rely on it for survival.
Overall, 77% of the 123 field stations studied by Harbor Watch exceeded either 1 or both of the state criteria for acceptable levels of baceria. Click here for the full report.
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.”
Tony McDowell has spent his professional career in marketing and business development. His paper and forest product companies have emphasized sustainable development. But his most recent job was based in upstate New York. He commuted 3 hours every Monday, then stayed there all week.
His new commute is way better: 6 minutes.
McDowell is the new executive director of Earthplace. It’s a great fit, he says — and not just because, after moving to Westport in 1987, he, his wife and 2 sons were frequent visitors to the environmental center.
A year ago, McDowell decided to shift his focus to non-profit management. He’d always been interested in environmental education and social issues — he was a founding board member of Stepping Stones Museum, board president of the Child Guidance Center, an advisor to Builders Beyond Borders and served on humanitarian missions to Haiti and Swaziland — and was an avid hiker and sailor.
He asked CEOs of non-profits for advice and insights. He networked. Then, last spring, Jeff Wieser — head of Homes With Hope — told McDowell about Earthplace. When the organization needed a new leader, he was one of the first to apply.
McDowell says that as Earthplace looks for fresh ideas — and the best ways to “deliver more value to the community” — his background in marketing is a great fit.
One example is Harbor Watch. Though the program — which monitors water quality in harbors, rivers, streams and estuaries here and in surrounding communities — has been part of Earthplace since 1993, few people know it.
McDowell’s challenge is to “identify the needs of the community, and communicate the value of our programs to a variety of audiences.” Most people associate Earthplace with its nursery school, he says. “That’s great — but we also have high school and adult programs. There’s a lot more that goes on here. We need to get the word out about everything.”
McDowell begins work today. The staff and board are “very excited,” he says.
He is too. And that 6-minute commute is just one reason why.
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