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Watershed council monitors river conditions

TURNERS FALLS — As of Thursday, bacteria levels at the Barton Cove state boat ramp had returned to “clean for boating and swimming” after elevated conditions one week earlier, according to the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s weekly monitoring program.

But then came the rains overnight Thursday and Friday into today, likely to flush more bacteria into the river.

As the Greenfield-based watershed council and the Springfield-based Pioneer Valley Planning Commission launched the 2013 Connecticut River water monitoring program on May 30, readings at Barton Cove registered at 2,420 CFU (colony-forming units) per 100 milliliters of water — “not clean for boating or swimming.”

By this Thursday, that had reduced to 137 CFU, which is considered safe for swimming and boating there, according to the environmental organization.

“Heavy rain last week is likely the cause of these high bacteria levels,” says the council’s Massachusetts river steward, Andrea Donlon, who coordinates the water quality program. “Generally, bacteria readings can spike after a storm event due to combined sewer overflows and stormwater runoff from urban, suburban, and agricultural areas. We generally tell people that they might want to stay out of the water for 24 to 48 hours after a storm event because of high bacteria and other pathogens.”

Because the Barton Cove readings are in an impoundment area, conditions may take longer to improve, however. And bacteria levels are periodically high there when they don’t test high anywhere else, leading Donlon to question what the cause can be. She said boaters should consider those levels, reported on the organization’s Connecticutriver.us website, if they are getting in or out of boats there.

The site also lists conditions at the Pauchaug Brook boat launch in Northfield, the Sunderland boat launch at the Route 116 bridge, and the Millers River at its Connecticut River confluence in Millers Falls.

On the Web: www.connecticutriver.us

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