CHESHIRE — Cheshire Land Trust members are on a steering committee overseeing an effort to reduce bacterial pollutants in the Mill River.
The river starts in Cheshire, near Wallingford Road, and ends in New Haven Harbor. Anna Marshall, green projects associate with Save the Sound, said there’s federal funding to create a plan to clean the river. The plan is also a prerequisite for federal money to fund the cleanup.
“The Mill River is the last one in this area that doesn’t have a watershed plan,” Marshall said. “It’s one of the three rivers that flow into New Haven harbor.”
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection lists the Mill River as an impaired water body. Marshall said the high bacterial pollution comes from storm water runoff and fertilizer from nearby farms.
The plan, devised by local residents, environmental engineers and others, will contain recommendations for improving the river, tributary streams, and the 24,000 acres of watershed around it. Once the plan is completed, groups such as Save the Sound can apply for EPA funding.
The land trust owns acres of land west of Sperry Road that includes the river. David Schrumm, a land trust member, said the group has worked to protect the river and its watershed from pollution and nearby development.
“The Mill River is one of those little streams that nobody pays any attention to,” Schrumm said.
The river flows into Lake Whitney, a reservoir used by Cheshire residents.
“When you disrespect the Mill River, you might be disrespecting the water you use to brush your teeth,” Schrumm said.
The river used to be home to trout, according to older residents, Schrumm said. In parts, the river almost dries up in warm weather.
Mark Kasinskas, a land trust member and former president, said land around the river was purchased by his group with help from the South Central Regional Water Authority, which also had an interest in protecting water quality.
The town has also purchased open space near the river.
“There really has been a collaborative effort among all those entities,” Kasinskas said.
Marshall said locals, including some land trust members, are on the plan’s steering committee. The committee is still in the process of forming and will remain an open group if more want to join.
“Folks at any point are welcome to jump in,” Marshall said.
The Mill River is dammed at several points to create municipal water reservoirs.
Cheshire is important to cleanup efforts, Marshall said.
”Good water quality begins at the source,” she said.