Photo by Gretchen Mack

Twenty community members are gearing up to help Mad River Valley residents enjoy the 2018 swimming season. Friends of the Mad River (FMR) runs the Mad River Watch water quality monitoring program to get a sense of the watershed’s overall health, provide public health information to river users and identify areas needing improvement.

Monday, June 11, is the first of six 2018 sampling dates – with one every other week from June through August.

Throughout the summer, community volunteers collect samples of water from more than 30 river and tributary sites and then FMR and Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation laboratories analyze the samples’ bacteria and nutrient levels. FMR posts E. coli data in The Valley Reporter, on its Facebook page and websites, and on signs at a dozen swim holes across The Valley so that people have information to make decisions on swimming.

The Mad River is generally safe for swimming and boating. The federal Clean Water Act, septic regulations, lots of project funding, careful land stewardship and the hard work of many people are to thank.

“But, there are times – particularly after a rainfall event – when it is possible that the river can make people sick. Also, certain regions of the Mad River suffer from persistent water quality problems that contribute to poor aquatic wildlife habitat, harmful algae blooms, polluted groundwater and exacerbated flooding,” said FMR executive director Corrie Miller.

In addition to E. coli data, Friends posts total phosphorus, nitrogen and turbidity data on its website at summer’s end when received back from the state lab. Over three decades, FMR has used Mad River Watch data to guide cleanup efforts.

This year’s volunteers include Charlie Baldwin, Doug Bergstein, Sally Boudreau, Lindsay Browning, Susy Deane, Alison Duckworth, Suze Edwards, Annie and Julia Fender, Jen Higgins, Fiona and Emmett Stowell, Annie and Hazel Macmillan, Hillary Newton, Joel Rhodes, Susanne and George Schaefer, Michael Ware and Julie and Ingrid Westervelt.

“New volunteers have big shoes to fill. A heartfelt thanks to Fran and Gary Plewak, who hung up their sampling gear this year after 12 years of dedicated service to this program,” said Miller.

For more information about E. coli and the Mad River Watch program visit Throughout the summer, Mad River Watch results will be available in The Valley Reporter, on Facebook (Friends of the Mad River), and on signposts at swim holes across The Valley.