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Volunteers Provide Info on Harmful Bacteria in Connecticut River

The Connecticut River as it winds through Massachusetts

Volunteers throughout the Connecticut River Valley are continuing their fifth season of monitoring for harmful bacteria in the river and its tributaries. WAMC’s Lucas Willard reports…

With volunteers at over 30 locations along the Connecticut River watershed, from southern Vermont through Southern Massachusetts, the 5th season of the Connecticut River Bacteria Monitoring program is now underway. The weekly monitoring for harmful E.Coli bacteria is a collaborative effort between the Connecticut River Watershed Council and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. This summer, Andrew Fisk of the Connecticut River Watershed Council, says that an interactive map is available online to the public with data from five organizations detailing the health of the river.

The website also provides information on fishing and fish consumption, river conditions, and other advisories.

Anne Capra of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission says that the past few years cities and towns in the Pioneer Valley have been making extensive improvements to their local infrastructure to reduce their Combined Sewage Output – or CSOs.

CSO’s contain not only stormwater but also untreated sewage. In high precipitation events, old sewer systems can back up and bring illness causing bacteria into the Connecticut River.

Tom Hamel, of the Chicopee Department of Public works, says that over the last decade or so, Chicopee has been able to make significant improvements to its sewer system to eliminate CSOs

Municipalities in the Pioneer Valley have been able to make the improvements thanks to state funding, EPA grants, and earmarked dollars secured with help from Congressman John Olver. Holyoke has also eliminated about 60% of its CSOs over the last decade. But city Public Works Superintendent Bill Fuqua says that funding is becoming harder to come by.

And Anne Capra of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission says that the political climate in Washington has slowed the rate of progress in cleaning up the rest of the Connecticut River.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, over 1 billion gallons of untreated sewage discharges into the Connecticut River have been eliminated. Palmer, Agawam, West Springfield and Ludlow have completely eliminated CSOs.

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