Water quality news Archive

These posts contain information about the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program and water quality sampling results.

Is it really over?: Bug Night #11

“I don’t know what I am going to do,” mourned the Bug Night-er with tears in his eyes. He was bereft at the thought of no macroinvertebrates in his future until 2020.

The female White Coat tried to bolster his spirits with the promise of field work in the summer but he was inconsolable.

The other Bug Night-ers began to realize the gravity of the loss and mourned them each in their own private way. There would never be any more Bug Nights 2019. There would be no further strange emails in the in boxes of Bug Night-ers. There would see be no further interactions between Bug Night-ers and their macroinvertebrate friends.

“Whatever shall I do?” cried the Bug Night-er, “Wherever shall I go?”

The White Coats did give a damn but the Bug Nights contract ended on this very evening and they were very tired. Field work would begin in a matter of weeks.

The Bug Night-er would have to find comfort in his own way. Given his history of being too familiar with some of the more dangerous macroinvertebrates, the White Coats were concerned.

“I will have to find a way to have my own bug nights,” moaned the Bug Night-er in a nearly unintelligible sob, “I have other friends who care more than you.”

The White Coats assured the grieving Bug Night-er that that was not the case. Unfortunately, it was too late. The Bug Night-er was enmeshed in another case. Perhaps his last. Only time and a good stereomicroscope would tell.

It is the end. At least for 2019. Let’s make the most of our last night together. We will see you on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 (that’s tonight) beginning at 6:00 PM sharp
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It’s all a charade: Bug Night #10

The Bug Night-er put one arm over her head, as if she was a cat, grooming her face—except she wasn’t a cat. She was trying to emulate her favorite bug for charades.

“Limnophilidae!” shouted another Bug Night-er with inappropriate confidence.

The charader was deflated. She attempted to emulate a dorsal hump on her second abdominal segment. She loved this bug and felt that everyone should recognize it by now. The sitting room Bug Night-ers gazed at their navels. Some, seeming uncomfortable, fled the room.

“Leptoceridae,” whispered the hovering standing room Bug Night-er.

The female White Coat asked the hoverer to speak louder and with more confidence.

“Leptoceridae!” she repeated with feeling.

“Ah, now I see it,” chimed in one of the other Bug Night-ers.

The next Bug Night-er began his Gerridae pantomine. More navels received gazes.

Look into my eyes and listen: Bug Night #9

“How many times have we told you,” asked the insect. It sighed the sigh of the most world weary being ever. The Bug Night-er was stunned. He had heard that the bugs could speak to volunteers but he thought that it was a metaphor, like a horse whisperer.

“The White Coats need you to organize us by order in your Petri dish,” continued the dreamy eyed bug, “See, there are Roman numerals etched into the bottom of each of the Petri dish’s four compartments.”

The insect’s six-legged companion chimed in, “Write down those four Roman numerals on your scratch paper, and indicate what you have in each and how many: see how some of the humans are using the clickers from the sorting days?”

The White Coats were grateful for the intervention. They were racing around the laboratory in figures-eight, trying to keep up with the more challenging identifications and assuring that they closed down the laboratory no later than 8:59 PM. They listened intently. It was wonderful having other volunteers—or bugs—parrot their nightly instructions from over the many years of Bug Nights.

“Identify. Organize. Write. Don’t wait until the last minute,” said the insect, “That’s the key to a satisfying Bug Night.

The Bug Night-er grabbed a clicker and scratch paper. Quietly, the female White Coat slipped him a sharpened pencil. The Bug Night-er did as he was told. What fruit was there in arguing with a bug? They were small but legion. Better not to find out.

You could learn a lot from a bug. We will see you on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 (that’s tonight) beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

If you are enjoying these messages and would like to see the archives from the past few years, please visit http://www.merrimackriver.org/forum

Identify me or else: Bug Night #8

“It’s not rocket science,” breathed the insect, “We’ve been through this more times than I have compound eyes.”

The insect was so close that the man could feel and smell the insect’s hot breath. The insect held the man in its mandibles and considerable tarsi. It was no surprise that it smelled of rotten leaves. Oddly, it smelled also of denatured alcohol. The White Coats looked up from their quality control stations. This was nothing they had not seen before. It could end one of two ways. They continued checking samples.

The insect continued with its controlled but rage-filled tirade. “Did you even count my legs? Check the length of my antennae? How about checking my underarms and abdominal segments for gills?”

The man would like to have answered but he did not. First, he could not given that the insect’s mandibles were closing over his throat. Second, well, second didn’t really matter but second, he didn’t have a good answer. The insect was correct. They had been through this identification exercise more times than he could count. Instead, he reached down and flipped open his Macroinvertebrates of the Upper Merrimack to the dichotomous key pages. The insect glanced down and seemed to understand. It loosened its grip. The man pointed to the first question.

“Abdomen with branched gills and scattered hairs” or “Abdomen without gills, small,” the man choked out aloud. The insect released him with a hiss of approval and stood by, waiting for the disposition of its abdomen assessment.

We have line drawings, photographs, and dichotomous keys. You can do it. We will see you on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

The Bug Man always rings twice: Bug Night #7

There are some things that you just can’t dial in, thought the quietly competent Bug Night-er. Take Bug Nights, for instance. It was an all-hands-on deck, roll up your sleeves kind of thing. She had heard the White Coats whispering about legendary Bug Night-ers who took home specimens to identify over the summer. She couldn’t believe it was possible. It seemed that she needed not only the White Coats’ guidance on difficult samples but also the camaraderie that came from an evening of like-minded people coming together for a common purpose. Even the peripheral, non-bug-related conversations were as vital to her as the professional assistance. Where else could she discuss the subtleties of trochantin and vacuum cleaner-like labrum of caddisflies? She looked at her watch. It was only 11:00 AM on Tuesday: more than twenty-four hours until she could be sitting in front of a glowing stereoscope, breathing denatured alcohol fumes, and tucking into the first identifications of the season after a long winter of subsampling.

She was still lost in thoughts about bug body parts while relaxing at home later that day. She was distracted with her anticipation of another wonderful Wednesday at Bug Nights. The family still maintained a land line and she was so surprised to hear it ring that she picked it up without thinking or looking at it. Immediately, she regretted her decision. It was little comfort to her that she was able to identify the insect right before the flames lit up the room.

When opportunity calls, don’t pick up the phone, head to Bug Nights. We will see you on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

If you are enjoying these messages and would like to see the archives from the past few years, please visit http://www.merrimackriver.org/forum

Security issues: Bug Night #6

It’s a changing world but the security guard did what he could to walk the line between safety and friendliness. He had known the White Coats since the beginning when they first started in the laboratory nearly a quarter century ago.

He poked his head in at the laboratory to see if he was needed and to say hello.

“Everyone say hello to Glenn,” sang the female White Coat.

“Hello,” repeated the Bug Night people.

“Everyone say ‘thank you,’ to Glenn,” shouted the male White Coat.

“Thank you, Glenn” droned the Bug Night people.

Glenn went on with his duties for the evening. He liked the Bug Night people. They were well behaved and, for the most part, cleared the building by 8:59 PM each Wednesday evening. They also left the laboratory in a cleaner condition than they found it, which was helpful all around.

“I wish that we could stay longer,” said the obsessive Bug Night-er, “Why can’t we go until 10:00 PM?”

“I think that you know the answer,” said the female White Coat, “We can’t overstay our welcome and campus security and safety are very important.”

The Obsessive Bug Night-er grumbled to himself—or was it to the bugs in his petri dish? No one but the female White Coat was listening. Everyone else was chattering giddily about anal prolegs and pedipalps. This was the one night of the week that they were in a situation to say such things aloud.

The female White Coat furrowed her brow. She could hear clipped phrases from the Obsessive One including, “You’re a big one!” “You want me to stay, don’t you? and “I bet you could do some damage with those tarsi.” Every time, the female White Coat began to report these disturbing snippets to the male White Coat, she was called away to check a petri dish or verify a caddisfly identification.

The night ended uneventfully. The Obsessive One seemed fine. He cooperated with the hourly stretches and exercises, heeded the one-hour warning, and seemed unusually resigned to the 8:30 PM ramp down. The female White Coat was unsettled but everyone left peacefully and satisfied with their evening’s labours.

At 9:05 PM that night, Glenn drove into the parking lot.

“Good old Bug Night people,” he thought, “They are long gone and everything is clean—just like they promised—now I can go home and relax.”

Everything was dark but the outside door appeared to be ajar and there was an unusual green glow in the corridor.

“Wait a minute,” he said to himself under his breath.

He entered the open door and was met for the last time by a new Bug Night-er.

Security is important: safety first! We will see you on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

A fistful of invertebrates: Bug Night #5

It can be difficult to find balance.

Some Bug Night-ers quietly worked on their samples and began ramping down at 8:30 PM. Some were ready to go much earlier. And then there was the Bug Night-er who couldn’t get enough. He came early and the White Coats could barely drag him off his sample at 9:03 PM.

“Wait,” the Obsessive One pleaded to the White Coats, “Just a few more?”

The White Coats exchanged exhausted glances. The Obsessive One would not be offended. He had already turned his gaze back to his stereoscope. They understood and empathized. After all, as volunteers, they had started the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program because of their own shared obsession.

“I know that I can clear this grid,” said the Obsessive One, still with his head down, “Just a few more.”

Everyone gathered to help him find a stopping point so that he could pick up work on his grid next week. The other volunteers swept in and broke down his station as he sat there, bereft as his evening’s work evaporated around him. The stereoscopes were returned to their cubicles and the tables were wiped down. The equipment was swept into its closet.

“I know that I could do more,” said the Obsessive One under his breath, “if only I could…” his voice trailed off in the rush to close the laboratory and shut down for the evening.

“Good night,” said the Male White Coat.

“Thank you for your wonderful work tonight,” said the Female White Coat.

As they turned off the lights, the White Coats noticed that the door would not close.

Bring your invertebrate obsession to Bug Nights. We will see you on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

Well, hello, there: Bug Night #2

She was just out for a stroll on a Wednesday evening when her life changed forever.

The trail was always quiet and it gave her time to think about what was important in life. She did not have to think long. Her life had little purpose and she felt that she was not making a difference. Her existence was that of a functionary. All of the loose ends and minutiae were overwhelming. She remembered what Chekhov had said, “Any idiot can face a crisis—it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.”

“Well, hello, there,” she heard a voice say. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she did not notice the insect on the grassy knoll above her. She stopped walking and her thoughts stilled.

“Are you looking for Bug Nights?” asked the insect. The insect seemed calm and its question was intriguing.

“Bug Nights?” she asked, “What are Bug Nights?”

“Bug Nights are what make life worth living,” the insect replied, “You gather with friends, learn about body parts, are given free license to say things such as ‘anal prolegs,’ and meet new friends.”

Could it give her life purpose? Would she make a difference? Would she have something to think about on her long walks?

“How do I start?” she asked the insect.

“Follow me,” it said, and waived a long, hairy leg toward the St. Paul’s School campus.

Give your life purpose. Come to Bug Nights. We will see you on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

Bacteria days: results for August 23, 2018

Dear River and Watershed Friends,

Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program volunteers ended the 2018 bacteria sampling season with 100% sampling at 100% of the eleven sites on the Merrimack River from Franklin to Bow and on the Pemigewasset, Winnipesaukee, and Contoocook Rivers.

The good news is that the City of Franklin’s work around Site 1 seems to be keeping bacteria counts low. We plan to continue confirmation monitoring at Site 1 through the fall.

The not-so-good-news: there is no not-so-good-news. All eleven sites are below the Class B designed use standard of 406 colonies of E. coli.

As a reminder,  the readings shown below are the number of E. coli bacteria colonies for every 100 millilitres of water. Warm blooded animals (including humans) all have E. coli in their guts. State designated swim beaches are not allowed to exceed 88 colonies and Class B waters (all of our sites are Class B waters) should be below 406 colonies. Here are the details.

Site number and description
1 Pemigewasset 172.3
2 Winnipesaukee 290.9
3 Merrimack above FWWT Plant 98.8
4 Merrimack below FWWT Plant 156.5
5 Merrimack Jamie Welch Park 214.3
6 Merrimack Route 4 Bypass 365.4
7 Contoocook at Rivco 396.8
8 Merrimack Sewalls Falls 248.1
9 Merrimack Manchester St 137.6
10 Merrimack Blue Seal 201.4
11 Merrimack Garvins Falls 108.1

You’ll hear from us again ext year when we begin our new sampling season. This program would not be possible without our amazing site monitors, couriers who drive samples from Concord to Franklin, the Franklin Waste Water Treatment Plant who processes all of the samples at no cost to our volunteer program, and our generous Adopt-a-River Site Sponsors, who provide volunteer support and financial donations to allow us to purchase equipment and supplies.

Please visit our fresh and newly designed forum at MerrimackRiver.org/forum.
You can also find us at MerrimackRiver.org for further information or don’t hesitate to contact us at UMMP@MerrimackRiver.org or 603.796.2615 should you have any questions.

Sincerely,
                                           
Michele L Tremblay                          Stephen C Landry
Program Manager                             Sampling Supervisor

Bacteria days: results for August 9, 2018

Dear River and Watershed Friends,

Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program volunteers began the bacteria sampling season with 100% sampling at 100% of the eleven sites on the Merrimack River from Franklin to Bow and on the Pemigewasset, Winnipesaukee, and Contoocook Rivers. This week continued that excellent trend. We have just one more sampling event left this season.

The good news is that the City of Franklin’s work around Site 1 seems to be lowering the bacteria counts: they are the third lowest of this sampling event and well within Class B standards.

The not-so-good news: Wednesday’s storm with dramatic rainfall and runoff resulted in four sites exceeding Class B standards. All but two were over Class A standards. Depending on the weather for our next event, we expect to see those levels lower than they were this week.

As a reminder,  the readings shown below are the number of E. coli bacteria colonies for every 100 millilitres of water. Warm blooded animals (including humans) all have E. coli in their guts. State designated swim beaches are not allowed to exceed 88 colonies and Class B waters (all of our sites are Class B waters) should be below 406 colonies. Here are the details.

Site number and description
1 Pemigewasset 133.4
2 Winnipesaukee 920.8
3 Merrimack above FWWT Plant 770.1
4 Merrimack below FWWT Plant 387.3
5 Merrimack Jamie Welch Park 461.1
6 Merrimack Route 4 Bypass 209.8
7 Contoocook at Rivco 44.8
8 Merrimack Sewalls Falls 76.7
9 Merrimack Manchester St 146.7
10 Merrimack Blue Seal 201.4
11 Merrimack Garvins Falls 1,119.9

You’ll hear from us again after the August 23 (our last of the season) sampling day.

Please visit our fresh and newly designed forum at MerrimackRiver.org/forum.
You can also find us at MerrimackRiver.org for further information or don’t hesitate to contact us at UMMP@MerrimackRiver.org or 603.796.2615 should you have any questions.

Sincerely,
                                           
Michele L Tremblay                          Stephen C Landry
Program Manager                             Sampling Supervisor