Science

Testing the Waters

Kedron Brook in Woodstock, VT, has been the subject of years of water quality testing as seasonal water quality has exceeded state standards for six years. The state of Vermont has Kedron Brook listed as being stressed. This fall, ONRCD teamed up with Vermont Institute of Natural Science VINS and Woodstock Elementary School 5th grade classes to continue the search for the source of the E.Coli pollution.

Previous years of testing guided the groups to bracket several possible areas of contamination and four sites were chosen including Teagle Park which is located in the village of Woodstock. Drought conditions for the first four weeks of testing should have shown low counts of E.Coli but two of those weeks showed high counts, one exceeded state standards, at Teagle Park. “The students made observations,” tells their teacher Allison Greene, “noting that the park is well used by people with dogs and they also wondered if drain pipes from the road could contribute to the problem.”

Jim Armbruster, VINS Research Coordinator, “wanted to be part of the project as citizen science is a big part of VINS mission.” Jim set up a weather station at the school for the students and also published the weekly water quality results. He also trained volunteers to assist with the weekly testing.

“What we needed was a rain event,” commented Sue Greenall, ONRCD district manager. “We wanted to demonstrate to the students how runoff effects water quality and also how Mother Nature can clean streams given the opportunity. We got the chance on Sept 30 with three inches of rain. The students were surprised to see the high counts, several over 500 (state limit is 235). This was a great teaching opportunity as we tested again on Oct 5, again with the students making predictions. Not only were they surprised at the low counts, but showed great interest in how streams can clean themselves.”

The question remains as to what is the cause of the periodic high counts of E.Coli in Kedron Brook. The project will continue over the winter with the 5th grade classes writing essays, some to be published in The Standard, as well as contributing comments to the Clean Water Board. ONRCD, VINS and Sustainable Woodsock will work with the DEC to continue water quality testing of Kedron Brook through the La Rosa grant program in 2021.