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“It’s running clean!”

In May, Riverkeeper responded to a citizen watchdog complaint about an apparent sewage leak in the Fonteynkill, a tributary of the Casperkill in Poughkeepsie. The students and faculty of Vassar College know the Fonteynkill, as it forms Vassar Lake west of the main campus.

The stream looked… Ugly. Filthy. Unhealthy. Worse, its filth was running directly adjacent to several homes, before it wended toward Vassar Lake.

Here’s what we saw, which coupled with tests of fecal indicating bacteria processed in our own lab, and by a certified lab, suggested strongly that the sewers in the area were leaking into the stream:

The Fonteynkill on May 13, 2015

The Fonteynkill on May 13, 2015

Does this look like a healthy, happy stream to you?

Does this look like a healthy, happy stream to you?

We reported our findings to the Department of Environmental Conservation on June 5, and forwarded a history of sampling results by Vassar College Environmental Research Institute’s ongoing project to study and protect the Casperkill watershed. Ours were not the first samples to show high concentrations of fecal indicating bacteria. It’s likely that this stream has been polluted for years.

The DEC responded with an investigation on June 16, and with the City of Poughkeepsie found that privately owned sewer lines and manholes in the vicinity of the Fonteynkill were filled with sludge, causing overflows. Following a cleaning, the lines are running again, and a maintenance plan has been put in place to prevent future backups.

Our watchdog visited the stream this week, and reported his observations: “It’s running clean!”

Thanks to the DEC, City of Poughkeepsie, Vassar College’s Collins Research Fellows (past and present), and the citizen watchdog.

Learn how you can report pollution to Riverkeeper, and save the DEC’s pollution hotline (844-332-3267) in your phone to make prompt reports.

Read more about the Fonteynkill, its history and ongoing community projects to study and protect it and the Casperkill watershed at dutchesswatersheds.org, or read the Health of the Casperkill Creek report.

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