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Volunteers help assess health of Mill River in Cheshire

Volunteers help assess health of Mill River in Cheshire

reporter photo

CHESHIRE — Outfitted with waders and clipboards, brothers Nick and Ben Motmans climbed down the bank of the Mill River near Mount Sanford Road Monday to study a section of the waterway.

Nick Motmans, 17, is a student at Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford and member of the Cheshire Land Trust board. He was one of the 20 volunteers trained by a water quality specialist with the Regional Water Authority several weeks ago. The volunteers are helping assess the health of the Mill River.

The Mill River starts in Cheshire and flows 17 miles to New Haven Harbor. Save the Sound, a nonprofit, is funding the study to determine which areas of the river need improvement or protection from pollutants.

Pam Roach, a land trust member and Mill River study facilitator, said her group and Save the Sound collaborated on the study. Where possible, volunteers will use public access to the river but may need to ask property owners’ permission for access in some places.

The Motmans brothers struggled to get through brush and undergrowth on the riverbank right around the Mount Sanford Road bridge. Once in, they analyzed the water flow, riverbed composition, nearby plants and canopy.

Nick Motmans, who is in Lyman Hall’s vo-ag program, said he’s taken some environmental conservation courses at UCONN and hopes to get into the field as a career.

The Mill River is an important water body, particularly for Hamden since it flows into Lake Whitney.

“It’s where Hamden gets all its water supply,” Nick Motmans said.

Dan Doyle, spokesman for the Regional Water Authority, said volunteers will get training in identifying signs of "something problematic in the water" such as runoff. Eroded channels leading to the river can mean improper drainage nearby from a road, for instance.

Each volunteer was assigned a section of the river to study.

Roach found the training comprehensive and helpful. Volunteers are supposed to walk upstream first so as not to disturb the riverbed trying to study it. She’ll mark on a map where there are outfalls, pipes that discharge water into the river, or piles of garbage.

Roach has found that a walking stick helps while in the river bed.

“You’ve got to watch out for poison ivy and hornets,” she said.

Twitter: @JBuchananRJ