Thunderstorms cause spike in E. coli levels

BRATTLEBORO — The Southeastern Vermont Watershed Alliance continued its monitoring program for the summer of 2017 on Wednesday, July 5.

Volunteers will be collecting samples from 34 sites on nine rivers and streams every other week through the end of August. This year, there are sampling sites on the West River, Flood Brook, North Branch Ball Mountain Brook, Rock River, Williams River (including the Middle Branch), Saxtons River, East Putney Brook, Sacketts Brook, and Whetstone Brook.

Prior to and during the Fourth of July holiday, much of Vermont received heavy rains that were catastrophic in some areas. Some of the region's watersheds saw some street flooding and erosion while some watersheds further to the north experienced more severe flooding that damaged roads and crops. Even though the rain had ceased well before the usual 24-to-48-hour window of concern for elevated bacteria levels, many rivers were still experiencing high water at the time of sampling and that is reflected in the results.

Most of of the sites tested above the "suitability for swimming" standard set by the state of Vermont and the US Environmental Protection Agency (235 E. coli per 199 ml. of water) during the July 5 testing. Because heavy rains can cause spikes in bacteria, it is generally recommended to wait 24 to 48 hours after a significant rainfall to resume swimming in lakes and streams.

Sites tested on Saxtons River included: Stickney's Field, at 866 per 100 ml. of water; above the waste water treatment plant and below the fire department ramp, 549; Main Street Bridge, 770; above Barber Park Road bridge, 2,420; below Twin Falls, 687; and Sand Beach above the Route 5 bridge, 579.

The River Road Culver swimming hole on East Putney Brook tested at 172 and Sacketts Brook, also in Putney, tested 1,299 at the Portal Bridge swimming hole; 1,553 above the Main Street dam; more than 2,420 below the paper mill; and 2,420 at the end of Mill Street.

The West River was tested at a number of sites including: In Londonderry at the Route 100 bridge, 1,120; South Londonderry at Rowes Road, 727; the Brookline Bridge, 140; the Dummerston covered bridge, below testable limits; behind Brattleboro Professional Center, 163; Milk House Meadows, 141.

Flood Brook in Londonderry tested at 63 and Pikes Falls swimming hole in Jamaica tested below limits. The Rock River, in the vicinity of Indian Love Call in Newfane also tested below limits.

The Whetstone in Brattleboor was tested at a number of sites including: Meadowbrook Road, Land Trust Farm parcel, 195; Glen Street below Dettman Driver, 298; Farmers Market on Western Avenue, 517; off of Williams Street, 980; behind New England Youth Theatre, 408; and next to the Brattleboro Food Co-op, more than 2,420.

SeVWA's water quality monitoring program is supported by SeVWA volunteers, members and donors, including the Londonderry Conservation Commission, Robert Fritz, Inc, Rock River Preservation, Elaine Lambert Living Trust, Grafton Village Cheese Company, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation LaRosa Partnership, & Connecticut River Conservancy.

For more information about SeVWA's monitoring program sites and results and other Connecticut River watershed water quality and recreational information, please visit


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