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Opinion: A bridge over contaminated water

Buck Scientific General Manager Eric Anderson calls himself “just a concerned citizen with the unique capability” to do water testing. The Walk Bridge cost estimates in this Buck Scientific blog post differ with those posted by the Connecticut Department of Transportation; you can find ConnDOT’s statistics here. 

Here in our hometown of Norwalk, we have an aging railroad bridge which needs to be replaced.  There has been much controversy surrounding the relatively small 526-foot bridge.

First there is the cost. The plans, released Sept. 6, call for a four-track movable bridge estimated to cost between $425 million and $460 million (in 2020 dollars) and take 40 months to complete. That’s more than $800,000 per foot of bridge!  The 120-year old Walk Bridge, a vital rail link in the northeast corridor, is at the end of its useful life.

The other main concern is the river’s troubled environmental past, which is where we come in.  Using our Atomic absorption spectrophotometer equipped with a Graphite furnace, we have started testing water upstream, and downstream from the bridge to get a baseline of the metal concentrations.  What we found so far is not good: 40 PPB (parts per billion) concentration of Lead were detected in the river water.

By comparison, Flint Michigan, the poster child for lead contamination, had levels of 27 PPB in 90 percent of homes and levels as high as 127 PPB in some homes, according to the Washington Post

What’s even more disturbing is that the watershed for this river, is considered extremely clean just a dozen miles upstream. So it would appear that the problem is close to home. 

From Wikipedia: The Norwalk River originates in ponds located in Ridgefield, Connecticut. These ponds empty into Ridgefield’s approximately 500-acre (2.0 km2) “Great Swamp”. The river continues through Ridgefield, and is augmented by the “Great Pond” (507 feet (155 m) above sea level), one of the purest lakes in Connecticut due to its being fed by underwater springs.

I intend to keep checking the river water as construction goes from start to finish to see what if anything else gets stirred up.We will also try to determine where this lead is leaching from.  

The landfill next to I-95 may be a good place to start.

4 comments

Mike Mushak February 27, 2019 at 11:33 am

I’m just curious if Mr. Anderson’s “unique capability” as he described himself possessing, includes any state certifications or professional credentials for testing public water, as required by state statute:

*Laboratories that perform testing on environmental samples such as
drinking water (well water), recreational waters, wastewater, soil and
solid waste are required by Connecticut General Statutes and the
Regulations of the Connecticut State Agencies to be approved for this
purpose. The following listing gives relevant information on approved
laboratories including their specific fields of testing.

https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Departments-and-Agencies/DPH/dph/environmental_health/environmental_laboratories/Lab-Lists/InstateApprovedCommercialEnvironmentalLaboratoriespdf-june.pdf?la=en

I didn’t see the name of his company on this list of certified testing laboratories, last updated in 2018. Perhaps Mr. Anderson can share his professional qualifications and state certifications for testing public water.

Joanna Cooper February 27, 2019 at 7:52 pm

@ Mike Mushak
Ever heard of Erin Brockovich? She didn’t have the professional qualifications or certifications to test the water and look what she uncovered.

Go Eric! You never know what else you will find until you look.

M Murray February 28, 2019 at 6:51 am

Seawater contains trace amounts of lead (2-30 ppt). On average rivers contain between 3 and 30 ppb. Phytoplankton contains approximately 5-10 ppm lead (dry mass), freshwater fish approximately 0.5-1000 ppb, and oyster approximately 500 ppb
The CDC reccommends drinking water contain no more than 15ppb

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