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Lex Sorrell, 15, picks up trash along Hanover Pond, Meriden. | (Dan Jackson/The Citizen)

These days, less trash in Quinnipiac River

The Quinnipiac River is the state’s most urban waterway. Over the years, the river, which starts in Plainville and runs south to Long Island Sound, has become polluted. Old industry waste, pesticides from lawns and litter all made its way into the Quinnipiac, according to the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association, a grassroots and advocacy organization.

But that is slowly changing, according to the QRWA. According to several interviews with QRWA officials and volunteers, there is less trash in the river than even five years ago and the organization is conducting a study to find ways to reduce pollution in the waterway.

On Oct. 12, the QRWA held its annual fall cleanup. Up and down the river, groups scoured the banks for trash.

Where the river empties into Hanover Pond in Meriden before continuing its journey south, Meriden Rotary President Cliff Carlson and Lex Sorrell, 15, walk down the bank to check out a spot.

“It might be out of reach, but we’ll see,” said Carlson.

“I think we can do it,” Lex said.

“Got your rake?”

“Oh yeah.”

The two push through the brush to stand on the edge of dry ground. They start picking up old water bottles and liquor nips, using a rake and a stick to fish for trash lying out of reach.

“How pleasant,” Carlson remarks.

Carlson said Rotary Clubs in the towns where the river runs through have scheduled their own fall cleanups of sections of the river. In the past, the volunteers have pulled anything from hot tubs to cars out of the river.

“It seems like the same stuff we pull out every year, but it’s getting better,” Carlson said.

David James, secretary for QRWA, said that the river quality improved after President Nixon signed the Clean Water Act and the industry along the river faded away.

“Well, it was a lot better than it was in the ’70s,” he said.

One such industry located along the western bank of the river in North Haven was the Upjohn Chemical Company. There, the company made chemicals that went into products like sunscreen, pesticides, soaps and dyes.

The property was acquired by the Pharmacia Corporation and eventually, manufacturing ceased at the property in 1993.

Today, Pfizer Inc. is cleaning up the site from chemicals that have sunk down into the ground. It is installing a hydraulic barrier to keep contaminated groundwater from seeping into the river and flowing into the sound.

Roger Kemp, vice president of QRWA, said the organization tries to educate towns in the watershed about its impact to the river.

A watershed is the area where rainwater feeds the river. A watershed is much larger than the river itself. For example, while the Quinnipiac flows through seven towns, 19 towns are a part of the river’s watershed.

The problem, Kemp says, is portions of towns like New Britian, Durham, Middlefield and Berlin “don’t even know they are in the watershed.”

Kemp said the QRWA is currently in the middle of studying the watershed in order to create a watershed management plan. The study, which is state funded, will be the first management plan for a watershed in the state.

The study will look at what causes problems. After the plan is completed during January 2014, the QRWA will send the plan to all the towns in the watershed, asking for cooperation.

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