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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Congratulations Tierney!

 

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Graduating senior Tierney Weymueller (right) receives a cap from chair Karen Schneller-McDonald in appreciation of her outstanding work for the Saw Kill Watershed Community water monitoring program.

Summary of April’s Community Meeting!

April’s Community Meeting began with an update on the Bard Water Lab, given by Clara Woolner. Clara plotted graphs using data collection from December to April (except for January). In summary, she explained that her data shows low counts of enterococcus bacteria and that conductivity levels relatively stayed the same during winter months. However, there is an expectation that conductivity levels will rise during the summer. She also mentioned that Site 6 along the Saw Kill on Benner Road, has higher levels of conductivity and bacteria than any other sites. Afterward, Laurie Husted disclosed the issues on dams. For instance, they are a disturbance to aquatic life and are expensive to maintain and remove. Currently, there are two dams on Bard College’s campus and Bard is looking for funding to study the dams. Later, Sheila Buff provided an update on Amtrak’s agenda. They want to install fences around the train tracks to ensure safety, but this poses a great issue for wildlife and people who want to enjoy the river.

Dr. Emma Rosi, an ecologist at the Cary Institute, soon presented on the effects of pharmaceutical drugs and personal care products in rivers. She begins by explaining the rivers’ sources of contamination: the toilets. When people take drugs, it usually isn’t metabolized by our bodies and the drugs come out through our urine and feces, which is flushed down the toilet. People also flush expired or non-expired drugs down the toilet. Drugs that are flushed down the toilets becomes very problematic because the wastewater treatment plant isn’t designed to properly filter out the drugs, so the river becomes contaminated with drugs. The river also becomes contaminated through the landfill. We place 50% of our feces, and solids (composed of drugs) onto land. However, when the landfills leak, the feces are taken to the wastewater treatment plant. This is problematic because (as mentioned previously) the wastewater treatment plant doesn’t filter the drugs. Another practice that pollutes the water is by simply applying lotion, or sunscreen. When we shower, the chemicals are washed up and sent to the wastewater treatment plant. Again, the plant doesn’t filter out the chemicals, so it ends up in the river. Moreover, we put a lot of drugs such as antibiotics in livestock. So, when the livestock excretes waste, drugs are excreted as well. We then apply the waste into landfills, and the cycle of polluting rivers continue once they move the waste to the treatment plant.

Dr. Rosi further explains her work with the Hudson River. Her focus is examining the impacts of drugs on rivers. She researched the effects of algae on drugs that are prevalent in the Hudson because algae are very significant. They are the base of the food chain and they are often exposed to drugs since they bloom in streams. She found that drugs such as Triclosan, and antidepressants, stunt the growth rate of algae. (Triclosan are antibacterial agents found in care products such as toothpaste. It was banned in soap production in 2016). She had also done lab work with putting bacteria on drugs, such as Triclosan, and analyzed how quickly they will grow resistance to drugs. She found that the bacteria have quickly grown resistance and bacterial communities had fundamentally changed. She also put bugs on drugs, such as Cimetidine, which helps with stomach acid. She found that the bugs emerge into adulthood much faster.

Dr. Rosi reveals steps we can take to reduce drugs in our rivers. She explains that we must not flush our drugs down the toilet. Instead, we can take expired or unwanted drugs to pharmacies and they will incinerate them properly. Additionally, we can encourage our local politicians to upgrade and maintain our wastewater treatment plant. Lastly, we can encourage and support research on rivers.

To read the full meeting minutes click here. Our next community meeting event is on Thursday, May 10th at the Red Hook Town Hall. Our next water sampling event is on Friday, May 11th. If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact Victoria at vc5769@bard.edu! Hope to see everyone sampling at the Saw Kill and/or at the Community Meeting soon!

 

A recap of our February Community Meeting

The Community meeting in February began with Robyn Smyth, an interdisciplinary water scientist, and professor at Bard College. A significant issue discussed was the overuse of road salt. Salt slowly infiltrates into groundwater, and  remains in the water for a long time. Thus, the salinity of our drinking water supply can increase over time. Often, extreme caution towards road safety leads to massive amounts of salt being poured on the road. However, many people do not know that at a certain temperature, salt becomes ineffective.

One effective method is to simply reduce the amount of salt used. Moreover, we could use geographic information systems (GIS) to identify groundwater recharge zones, which are areas where the surface water moves down into groundwater. As these zones are extremely sensitive, we could ensure that no salt would be poured there. Another idea is to promote laws and regulation that limit the amount of salt poured on the roads. In our Q&A someone brought up that this is practiced in European countries such as Sweden and Finland. In order to pursue these methods, we must first actively engage and/or facilitate community discussions to bring awareness to the problematic conditions that can arise with the overuse of road salt. For more information on Smyth’s presentation, click here for her powerpoint.

We had updates on two upcoming citizen science projects. The first is the Eel Monitoring project run by the NYDEC. Every spring as American Eels begin their migration into freshwater streams volunteers set up nets to catch, count, weigh, and release the glass eels. We have a net right at the mouth of the Saw Kill and are looking for more volunteers to help once the migration starts near the end of March.  Contact Clara Woolner at cwoolner@bard.edu for more information. Another citizen science program is the Amphibian Migration monitoring. Once the temperature has reached the perfect warmth and it has been a little rainy, the salamanders start their migration back to their vernal pools. Volunteers come out to help salamanders cross the road during the evenings so that they can be safe and sound! To find more information  please contact Laurie Husted at husted@bard.edu.

The complete meeting minutes are posted here. Our next water sampling event is on April 13. To find more information and/or interest in volunteering, please contact Victoria Choy at vc5769@bard.edu. Hope to see everyone soon!

Upcoming end of the year celebration!

This Wednesday, Dec. 13th from 7-8:30pm at the Elmendorph Inn in Red Hook will be our last community meeting of 2017.

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Please join us for our end of the year celebration! We will be reviewing the past year, brainstorming ideas for 2018, thanking our wonderful volunteers, and celebrating the end of a great year in the watershed.

We would love to see you there, and bring a friend or two! This is a great opportunity to celebrate all the hard work we have done, as well as show newcomers what this group is all about and how to get involved.

A recap of our November Community Meeting

November’s community meeting focused on flooding- mitigation strategies and our watershed’s role. Carolyn Klocker and Karen Schneller-McDonald started off the evening by discussing flooding and our watersheds. Flooding is a normal part of stream function, however the intensity and frequency of flood events has increased with changes in climate and land use. As communitys look to respond to increased flooding, their watershed can play an important role in natural flood protection. Protecting our wetlands and buffers were examples of preventative measures that can be more cost effective than remediation or elaborate infrastructure. You can view Karen’s presentation here.

Beth Roessler from the NYS Dec Hudson River Estuary Program presented on stream buffers and flood protection. She defined the different terms used in talking about buffers, terms which can often be confused.  The riparian area being the interface between land and waterbody. This area is unique with different soils and the wildlife it supports. A riparian buffer is the vegetated protective area between a waterbody and human activity. And the flood plain is the area which can be expected to flood (either frequently or in 100 year events). A healthy buffer filters pollutants and nutrients, provides temperature control, recharges groundwater, controls flooding and erosion, and provides habitat.  It should be wide, at least 100 feet is a good rule of thumb, have many types and sizes of resilient plants, provide shade and leaf litter. An unhealthy buffer is paved or built up, manicured lawn, hardened or eroded banks, and full of invasives. When looking to restore a buffer area, targeted areas should protect floodplains, headwater streams and wetlands. They should reduce the amount of stormwater runoff and be restored smartly with plants that can handle conditions like sediment build up. There are tools for the local to state scale, but one highlighted state-wide program is Trees for Tribs. The SKWC has worked with Trees for Tribs in the past on different properties in the watershed. The program provides native trees and shrubs, plant protection, recommendations, education and planting demonstrations. For more information on the program, see here, and if you have a potential site in the watershed you would like to see restored, let us know!

The last presentation was from Red Hook CAC member, Jen Cavanaugh. She gave an update on the Flood Mitigation Assessment Project. A team of engineers, watershed scientists, flood managers, and community members have been working to assess the history of flooding in the area and possible solutions for in the future. After being out in the field and getting local input, geomorphic assessments, hydrologic/hydraulic assessments, and researching flood mitigation strategies and management methods, they are finalizing their report and presenting to stakeholders in public meetings. Their work found problem areas along the Saw Kill (mostly in the lower reaches), and identified possible solutions. We encourage you to come out to their public meetings to learn more.

To read the full meeting minutes, take a look here. We are excited to continue our work even as the days get chillier. Our next water quality monitoring day is Friday, Dec. 8th. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Tierney at tw4287@bard.edu. Our next community meeting, and last of the 2017 year, will be on Wednesday, Dec. 13th at the Elmendorph Inn. Hope to see you out in the watershed soon!

Upcoming panel on protecting our drinking water

Protecting Drinking Water in the Saw Kill Watershed: A Regulatory and Policy Perspective

Monday, September 25, 2017, 6:00 pm-8:30 pm

Red Hook Community Center, 59 Fisk St., Red Hook

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Join us for a community meeting and discussion with a panel of experts to learn more about the Saw Kill Watershed as a drinking water source. Topics include:

  • Why it’s important to protect water supplies throughout the watershed.
  • How the community can respond to water supply contamination.
  • How to use laws, policies, tools, and other resources available for protecting drinking water.

Bring your questions, concerns, and ideas! We will have plenty of time for discussion and responses to questions.

Refreshments will be provided.

This meeting is a Hudson River Regional Council event in collaboration with the Saw Kill Watershed Community.

This event is free, but registration is required. To register, please go to http://bit.ly/2gHVFzR.