Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Volunteers needed to help study water quality in local streams

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
September 28, 2006

VERNON - The Friends of the Hockanum River Linear Park need the public's help in assessing the water quality of local streams.

Members of the Friends group and the Hockanum River Watershed Association will be going into the Hockanum and Tankerhoosen rivers on Oct. 7 to collect small, but important creatures, which can tell scientists a lot about the status of water pollution.

And the two organizations are hoping to find a number of community volunteers to help them do their collections.

Participants will assemble at 9 a.m. at the Tolland Agricultural Center at 24 Hyde Ave.

Don Bellingham, one of the study's organizers, said training will be provided that morning, and the entire collection should be completed by 2 p.m.

Refreshments will be provided.

"It gives citizens the opportunity to take an active role," Bellingham said. "It gives us a historical perspective for how we are doing from year to year."

For the past four years, volunteers have waded into the rivers to collect benthic macroinvertibrates, spineless creatures that live at the bottom of the two waterways.

There are three classes of the organisms, and each class can give environmentalists insight into the status of the rivers' water quality.

One class can survive only in clean waters, a second class can survive in declining waters, and a third class lives in more polluted waters, Bellingham said.

Water samples will be taken from five points in the rivers, starting from their headwaters in the eastern parts of town and continuing into Talcottville, where the Hockanum flows into Manchester.

The collected organisms will be studied, their types determined, and the results will be submitted to state environmental scientists, who will write a formal report on the waters' quality, Bellingham said.

Because the two rivers' headwaters are located in town, Bellingham said, environmental workers have the chance to see the rivers at their cleanest.

"As you go downstream, we find that it does degrade because it has to go through the developed areas," Bellingham said. "That's why we are taking these tests every year, to find out if it's really getting bad."

Volunteers should come to the study with shoes appropriate for hiking and wading into shallow water.

Sneakers are not recommended.

A pair of waders will be provided to each group, though volunteers are welcome to bring their own pairs, Bellingham said.

Bellingham asks anyone who is interested in volunteering to contact him at 872-6061.

©Journal Inquirer 2006