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Letter to the Editor From the Director of the Black River Action Team

posted Monday, July 16, 2018

Since 2014, the Black River Action Team has conducted weekly sampling at several area swimming holes all summer long. BRAT volunteers are trained to collect their samples carefully, following protocols set forth by the State of Vermont and Endyne Labs (a nationally-accredited facility in Lebanon NH).

Endyne tests the samples for fecal coliform, which are present in the gut of all warm-blooded animals, including birds as well as humans. These bacteria are naturally present in our rivers and other waterbodies, and the EPA has set a limit of 235 colony-forming units (or cfu) per 100 mL of water for safe recreational contact such as swimming. The most common, Escherichia coli (or E.coli), is not a direct threat; rather, it is an "indicator" bacteria -- its presence in high numbers tells us that other pathogens commonly found in fecal matter may have entered the waterway at the same time as the E.coli bacteria.

We've seen some higher-than-usual numbers in the past two weeks, and a couple are quite high. While there is no need to panic, people should be aware of this information before they jump in their favorite swimming hole (and folks can check this site for updated information: http://connecticutriver.us/site/content/sites-list).

The important thing to look at are trends over time; a "bottle grab" sample is literally a snap-shot of a body of water at that exact moment in time within the water column. What we hope to see is a long-term trend of healthy, low levels of E.coli in all our swimming holes, from summer to summer.

BRAT is in the process of raising funds to cover the cost of testing additional sites above the swimming holes with high counts, so we can attempt to narrow down the location of whatever the source might be -- could be high numbers of warm-blooded animals using the river more because of heat and low water levels, could be failing septic systems, could be a number of things. We won't know till we do more work.

As director of the BRAT, I feel a little like Chief Brody in "Jaws"! I hate "closing the beaches," but I would hate even more to have anyone fall ill and claim that we did nothing about it. Check the website for weekly updates, stay out of the water for 24 hours after a heavy rain and anytime it appears cloudy. Please consider donating $25 or more to help us reach our goal of $5,000 to cover additional testing this summer as well as adding new sites next summer to attempt to locate potential sources of E.coli at our beautiful swimming holes.

Learn more about the Black River Action Team and consider volunteering as a River Dipper: www.BlackRiverActionTeam.org.

Checks may be made out to ONRCD and mailed to our fiscal agent, the Ottauquechee Natural Resources Conservation District (please note 'BRAT' in the memo section):

ONRCD
28 Farmvu Dr
WRJ, VT 05001

Sincerely,
Kelly Stettner, Director
Black River Action Team

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St. Luke's Church 80th August Supper
I have a selection of limited edition prints of the Chester Village Green, the Stone Village and historic village vignettes framed and unframed.
Call Lew Watters at 802.875.2114 or email lewdog1938@gmail.com.
Helps Vermonters put three balanced meals a day on the table. Most households get at least $50 each month for food. If you qualify, you could get a monthly payment that helps you buy more food.
To learn more, visit vermontfoodhelp.com or dial 2-1-1.

Saturday, August 25
The Nature Museum presents "The Wild World of Mushrooms"
A summer mushroom workshop with Ari Rockland-Miller, The Mushroom Forager. The Wild World of Mushrooms will be offered twice: one workshop at 9:30am and a second at 1pm. Each workshop costs $30 and is appropriate for ages 15 and up.
September 15 - September 16
Annual Chester Fall Craft Festival
The annual Chester Fall Craft Festival will be held on September 15-16th, 10am-4pm, on the Green in Chester. Crowds converge on the Green in Chester, one of the "Most Beautiful Villages in New England" to explore the unique handmade crafts offered by over 65 vendors lining the green.
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