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Worth a Million Bucks

July 30, 2008

By Howard Weiss-Tisman, Brattleboro Reformer, Vt.

Jul. 30–BRATTLEBORO — A New England environmental group this week announced a multi-year initiative to clean up the Connecticut River.

The Connecticut River Joint Commissions will partner with four organizations in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire to monitor the river water and work with cities up and down the river to slow the release of pollution.

“This whole program was designed to improve the aquatic habitat and recreation safety of the river,” explained Connecticut River Joint Commissions Communication Director Adair Mulligan. “We want public and local officials to be more aware of what still needs to be improved in the river and why.”

The push to monitor and improve the quality of the Connecticut River is being paid for with a $953,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

An additional $458,000 in local funds will push the total project to $1.4 million and will include universities, nonprofit groups and independent volunteers who will work to clean up the water in the Connecticut River over the next few years.

Mulligan said many of the large cities along the river in Massachusetts release toxins into the water when there is heavy rain.

Many cities have water systems that combine sewer and run off flows. When the rain is heavy, dangerous levels of bacteria are released.

As part of the program, an online system will let river users know when the bacteria levels are

high.

Volunteers will be used to take water samples along some of the more polluted sites.

“We are going to work to detect when there is a surge in bacteria and it is unsafe to swim,” said Mulligan. “We are interested in getting people out more to explore what is out in the river and realize what is possible.”

The federal money will also be used to establish a buffer planting in Colebrook, N.H., and stabilize the riverbank in Franklin County, Massachusetts.

She also said a new Web site will host a virtual tour of the watershed which will be kept up to date as the projects advance.

“This is a big grant that is going to let us start a lot of innovative programs,” Mulligan said. “There are a lot of clever people working on this.”

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