PCB’s remain in Hoosic River, but it is in good health overall

The Hoosic River Watershed Association’s (HOORWA) annual State of the River Conference which was held recently was quite interesting. There was a presentation addressing the current status of the river with regard to the PCB contamination levels. Williams College chemistry professors David Richardson and Jay Thoman and students from Williams College, MCLA and Bennington College reported on the results of their studies of PCB levels in crayfish taken from various sites in the river and feeder streams.
“Ground Zero”, the site near where the Sprague plant was located had levels from 8 to 15 ppm (parts per million). The EPA sets the maximum safe level as 2 ppm. This sounds bad until one considers that before remediation, the levels there were as high as 1,000 ppm. The research shows the PCB levels are not decreasing, but remain stable. The crayfish collected farther downstream appeared to fall within the safe level.

Although PCBs normally sink to the bottom of water and stick to tiny grains of dirt, some did move downstream, presumably with the sediment which got washed downstream. Crawfish eat organisms that live in the sediments which eat and break down the detritus. They are ideal for analysis because they live on the river bottom and don’t travel far. They contain high amounts of fat in their tails which store nutrients as well as contaminants, said Williams sophomore Austin Paul.
They would like to expand their studies to include critters higher up in the food chain, such as trout. They eat lots of crayfish and the concentration levels of PCB’s in their body fat should be higher. They need help in obtaining these sample fish and are calling out to local fishermen. (Now there’s an excuse for getting out of yard work ………must go fishing to help the scientific community….we have an obligation to help out.)

Incidentally, HOORWA is doing a lot of good things on the Hoosic River these days. Executive Director Stephen McMahon reported that thanks to a remediation settlement, they are one of the beneficiaries of funds which will allow them to fund river monitoring programs for the next two or three years. These funds are dedicated to maintaining the quality of the Hoosic River from Cheshire Reservoir through North Adams.

They have been working with the Green Mountain National Forest staff to take temperature readings of streams (some in Pownal, VT) that are tributaries to the north branch of the Hoosic River. They have had successful river clean-ups. They have been working with the Bennington Conservation district and the village of North Bennington VT to remove a dam/bridge which created a dangerous scouring pool. They have been working with the town of Bennington, VT trying to conserve a piece of land, where the South Stream and Jewett Fork come together to form the headwaters of the Walloomsac River. They have also had successful Riverfest events.
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In 2014 they plan to work on removing dams, especially those that are classified as significant threats, to increase fish passages. They plan to sustain the river monitoring program, and this data will determine whether there are certain streams in MA and VT that must be protected for fish habitat and to evaluate the aspects of rising temperatures due to climate change. *****

Conservation-minded citizens are invited to attend an event being offered to share information about resources for managing and protecting private land for wildlife. Staff from the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW), Department of Conservation and Recreation Service Forestry, and Natural Resources Conservation Service will be available to discuss some options. Topics will include the New England Cottontail Initiative, the benefits of woodland management, options for protecting private land, programs that offer financial assistance and opportunities for private landowners or land managers to become engaged in conservation efforts. The habitat tour will take place rain or shine. The dates are as follows:
Wednesday, November 20, Sandisfield Arts Center, 5 Hammertown Road, Sandisfield, from 3:30 to 4:30 PM habitat management tour, from 5:00 to 6:00 presentation, and from 6:00 to 7:00 open house. Staff will be available for questions
Friday, November 22, Monterey United Church of Christ, Tyringham Rd. and Rt. 23, Monterey, from 5:00 to 6:00 PM presentation and from 6:00 to 7:00 open house – Staff available.
For more information, contact Marianne Piché, DFW Habitat Lands Biologist, at 508-389-6313 or email, marianne.piche@state.ma.us. *****
This year there were 5 participants in the Northern Berkshires paraplegic deer hunt, of which David Alderman of Petersburgh, NY got a button buck. There were 8 hunters in the Southern Berkshire hunt, of which Brigette Buzalsky of Lawrence, MA got a button buck on Thursday. ( I believe this was Brigette’s fifth buck bagged in paraplegic hunts). Sidney Eichstedt of Lee got a 130 lb buck also on Thursday. Elsewhere, 2 deer (one buck, one doe) were taken at the Quabbin site, and 1 doe was taken at the Devens site. *****

Paddy Sullivan, son of JoAnn and Shawn Sullivan of Lee and a 14 year old Freshman at Lee Middle School, is a member of the Lee Sportsmens’ Association and Holyoke Revolver Steel team. The team has won two recent Steel Challenge matches. The first match, held on October 5, was the Maine Scholastic Pistol Program Challenge held at Camp Hinds in Raymond, ME resulted in a gold medal in the Rimfire Senior division. The second match, held on November 2, was a Scholastic Steel Collegiate match, held at the Pioneer Sportsmen’s Club in Dunbarton, NH resulted in a first place win in the Center Fire Junior/Senior Division, and a first place win in the Rim Fire Junior/Senior division. Congratulations to Paddy who, according to his parents, was the top shooter in both matches. *****

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone/fax: (413)637-1818.

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