New study to examine water quality of the Conn. River - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

New study to examine water quality of the Conn. River

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)

A unique study began Tuesday on the Connecticut River in Franklin County to determine how much Massachusetts may contribute to poor water quality in Connecticut's Long Island Sound.

It was a busy day on the Connecticut River in Northfield on Tuesday as scientists at the local, state, and federal level announced a new partnership for the Commonwealth - one that will measure water quality, in hopes of keeping water cleaner and safer all the way south to Long Island Sound.

“It’s important for us to kind of know what the sources of nitrogen are, not just from the waste-water treatment plants, but from other sources," said Josh Schimmel, executive director of the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission.

State scientists told Western Mass News that there have been dangerously high levels of nitrogen in the Long Island Sound for decades.  It's a nutrient that has a major impact.

“The nutrient issue is causing hypoxia, which is a lack of oxygen," Schimmel added.

A lack of oxygen can be harmful to all things living in the water.

Treatment plants like the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission have been putting nitrogen in our bodies of water for years as part of the normal process of treating waste.  There are hundreds of plants like theirs along the river from Vermont to Connecticut doing the same thing.

Scientists want to find out who contributes to the water issues and how to address them. 

“Ours is the largest in this part of Massachusetts, so we felt like we really wanted to be a part of the solution, rather than part of the problem," Schimmel explained.

The U.S. Geological Survey was out on the river Tuesday sampling the water and it’s going to take some time to get all the data that they need.

“The person in the back is what we call our clean hands person and they handle the samples after they come in board.  We get about 48 to 50 samples in a year," said Jon Morrison of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Billions of dollars have been spent in New York and Connecticut to restore the sound’s water quality, but with little success.

Scientists in Massachusetts, along with the U.S.G.S., launched a new monitoring program today called ‘Stream Gauging,' which collects data in the water.

Along with a few years worth of samples to be collected, it will provide enough information to come up with solution.

Nitrogen solutions could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and it could cost communities along the river more money as well, but only tests will tell if Connecticut River water in Massachusetts is part of the problem.  

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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