The Big May Meeting: The State of the Saw Kill Forum!

Thank you to everyone who presented and attended the forum! It was great seeing so many people and learning so much more about the Saw Kill.

May’s meeting was a huge presentation about the overall condition of the Saw Kill Watershed. Carolyn Klocker, a member of the SKWC Leadership Team, began the meeting by explaining the mission of the SKWC, which is to protect the Saw Kill Watershed through science, education and advocacy. Carolyn then introduced Karen Schneller-McDonald, the chair of the Leadership Team. Karen explained more in depth about the mission of the SKWC. Our science programs that we facilitate comprises of our monthly water monitoring, the eel monitoring, and the salamander migration. We educate communities and people by holding monthly meetings and student research. Moreover, we advocate for the watershed holding community discussions and encouraging communities to enjoy the Saw Kill.

Next, Eli Dueker, member of the SKWC Leadership Team, described the value of the Saw Kill; it is extremely beautiful, and it provides recreational uses for many people. In addition, the watershed is a drinking water supply for the Bard community. Eli then focused on the interpretation of sewage indicators on the Saw Kill. He revealed that there were lots of contamination from 1967 to 1982, which was illustrated through the analysis of the fecal indicating bacteria. Fortunately, today, most sites have low levels of contamination, except for Brenner Road. This means that we should do more sampling near that area. We also seem to have an increasing amount of nitrate which could be related to an increase of lawn fertilizers. Stuart Findlay took over and continued presenting on the overall quality of the Saw Kill. Stuart disclosed that the Saw Kill has moderate nutrient concentration which is normal because the Hudson Valley has some areas of development near the watersheds. Moreover, issues of algae aren’t severe. Ultimately, the Saw Kill is well studied, and we should continue with the work.

Afterward, Katherine Meierdiercks, a professor at Siena College, presented about the impacts of road salt. It was revealed that the usage of salt in the U.S. had increased, and the concentration of salt in surface water typically surpasses EPA standards. Essentially, salt concentrations increase as time and urbanization increases. Fortunately, salt concentrations in the Saw Kill are below EPA and NYSDEC standards. Next, Jen Cavanaugh, member of the Red Hook CAC, assessed the effectiveness of the Saw Kill Watershed’s flood mitigation. Jen recommended infrastructure that needed to be fixed. Such recommendations included the removal of the Annandale dam, replacement of the 9G bridge, and realignment of the Echo Valley Bridge.

Lastly, Dan Shapley, director of Riverkeeper, suggested proactive steps that communities can take to protect their drinking supply. Such steps comprised of the usage of the Riverkeeper score and partnering with NGOs. Dan also disclosed the issue of water contamination in New York State, such as the Newburgh crises. We finally wrapped up the meeting by having an open discussion with community members on potential steps to help the Saw Kill, possible solutions, and concerns and issues. Some potential steps that were concluded were naming public access point and conducting source water evaluation. Some possible solutions listed were connecting people to the Saw Kill and conducting further treatment by using the wastewater treatment plant. Ultimately, some concerns and issues that were voiced is the potential overloading of septic tanks in Red Hook and over usage of lawn fertilizers.

To read more about the meeting, take a look at the meeting minutes here. The next SKWC water sampling event is on June 8! If interested in volunteering, please email Clara Woolner at: cwoolner@bard.edu.

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