Test Results Show ‘Slightly Elevated’ E. Coli Levels in Parts of New Canaan Waterways

A half-dozen bacteria data collection sites in three New Canaan rivers turned up slightly elevated levels of E. coli following tests that commenced this spring, officials said last week. 

The results could indicate nitrogen in the water supply, according to members of the New Canaan Conservation Commission. 

“I am not looking at these streams and rivers as drinking water supply, but I am looking at them from a wildlife and biodiversity standpoint and I am trying to get a better feel on, are they getting too much nitrogen in the water?” Commission Chair Chris Schipper said during the appointed body’s Aug. 13 meeting, held via videoconference. “I assume E. coli is also related to nitrogen. And are there other chemicals getting into the water supply?”

The Commission referred to data collection and water quality tests from Harbor Watch, part of Westport-based nonprofit organization Earthplace. The group presented to the Commission last spring. The town approved a total of $25,000 for the professional services in the Commission’s budget for the current fiscal year.

Podcast: Restoring New Canaan’s Long-Forgotten Bird Sanctuary

This week on 0684-Radi0, our free weekly podcast (subscribe here in the iTunes Store), we talk to Chris Schipper, chairman of the New Canaan Conservation Commission. The appointed body this year will unveil a master plan for the restoration of a 17-acre bird sanctuary and wildwood preserve—one of the very first in the United States—that’s been largely forgotten by locals. The plan, which is expected to start in earnest next fiscal year, will culminate with the centennial anniversary of the town-owned Bristow sanctuary. This week’s podcast is sponsored by Pet Pantry Warehouse, your local, family-owned, community-based pet specialty retailer. Here are recent episodes of 0684-Radi0:

Conservation Commission Lays Out Broad Vision for Restoring ‘New Canaan’s Historic Nature Park’

Town officials say they’re hoping by the end of June to have the wetlands marked within a little-known bird sanctuary that adjoins Mead Park, the early stages of a larger effort to develop a “master plan” for the 17-acre parcel. With pedestrian entrances from Old Stamford Road to the south and Mead Park to the north, the 1924-created Bristow Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve is “a little hidden gem” of New Canaan, Conservation Commission Chairman Chris Schipper said during the group’s most recent regular meeting. The town has engaged local landscape architecture firm Keith Simpson Associates to develop a master plan and bid packages have gone out for wetlands marking as well as topographical surveying that will include trails, trees and “any noted spots” within Bristow, Schipper said during the April 11 meeting, held at Town Hall. “We have gotten our first returns on bids, but more importantly we have been fortunate in reaching out to some local foundations to say, ‘Hey would you support us with some seed money so we can develop a master plan for the Bristow preserve?’ And the thinking is that with a master plan developed we would start a process of rehabilitation, with a goal of having it done by 2024, which would be the centennial, the 100th anniversary of Bristow. So we have given ourselves a little time in how we would improve or rehabilitate this 16.8 acres at that point.

Expanded Bacteria-Testing of New Canaan’s Rivers Proposed

Test results show that New Canaan’s waterways rank among the cleanest in the region, officials say. At seven E. coli data-testing sites located on New Canaan’s stretches of the Noroton and Rippowam Rivers—sites each tested at least 10 times from May to September last summer—officials found that just one location had a bacteria level that failed state criteria. And that one location—along Ponus Ridge, just below Collins Pond—was only “marginally failing” and within the margin of error, according to marine ecologist Dr. Sarah Crosby, director of Harbor Watch. “I am not overly concerned about there being an acute problem,” Crosby told members of the Conservation Commission during their regular meeting, held April 11 at Town Hall. Asked why New Canaan appears to have cleaner waterways than other towns in Fairfield County, Crosby said “a lot of it has to do with keeping infrastructure up-to-date.”

“A lot has to do with public understanding of things like septic maintenance, and the town regulations around septic systems can have a big impact, and then land use is a big part of it as well,” she said.

Valley Road Homeowners Reject Town’s Offer for Historic House

The owners of an antique house on Valley Road have rejected the town’s offer to purchase the home and some of the land around it, officials said last week. 

Instead, the First Taxing District of the Norwalk Water Department will have a caretaker stay at the red-painted 18th Century house at 1124 Valley Road to use it as an “operational base” for work at the adjacent Grupes Reservoir, according to Conservation Commission member Chris Schipper. “They plan to use the house in connection with the water business, so they do not intend to sell it as this time, and I guess that from our perspective that simply defers a decision,” Schipper said during the Commission’s regular meeting, held Oct. 11 at Town Hall. “The only thing that we should be alert to, if they are not maintaining the property, is the risk of demolition by dereliction.”

He added: “The good news its is no longer on the demolition queue. The bad news is it is sort of in abeyance.