One thing’s for sure: The sweltering days of summer have arrived. Just take a look at the plethora of vehicles parked at area swimming holes around the county.
But, as the following two news items attest, there’s still cause for concern when enjoying the cooling pleasures of the Green Mountain State.
Dateline: Newfane. An alert reader dropped a set of photos off at the newsroom Monday morning, showing a black bear frolicking (or, most likely, fishing) in the popular swimming area just off of Williamsville Road.
While a beautiful image, the photographer hoped it would also serve as a reminder to folks choosing to swim there. For one, that you could potentially be sharing that space with a wild creature. But also, as a warning to make sure you clean up all of your food and trash before leaving for the day.
According to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, black bears are found in most forested portions of the state, and rely on wild foods such as berries, beechnuts and acorns to survive.
"However," the Agency warns, "as humans move into bear habitat, bears can become attracted to other foods such as birdseed, garbage, and pet food. ... When a bear is being fed (directly or indirectly), its life expectancy is likely reduced. ... Black bears are normally shy and not aggressive to humans. However, a bear that has been fed by humans loses this shyness and can become a potential danger to human safety. When
When it’s something as simple as cleaning up your mess -- not only to keep swimming areas clean for everyone, but to protect wild animals that could be attracted by your trash -- it’s seems like a no-brainer.
Dateline: Windham County. A second round of E. coli testing around Windham County has showed numbers have generally decreased, but there are still several sites with numbers above acceptable standards for safe swimming. In fact, two spots on the Williams River had bacteria levels so high they could not be accurately measured.
Some of this could be caused by the after-effects of Tropical Storm Irene, which washed a lot of contamination into our state’s waterways and also damaged infrastructure (such as septic systems) that might otherwise have prevented such high numbers. We also had an awful lot of rain in the final days of June.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that most E. coli strains are harmless, however some strains can cause diarrhea, urinary-tract infections, respiratory illness, pneumonia and other sickness. For that reason, state and federal officials set "suitable for swimming" E. coli levels at a maximum of 235 organisms per 100 milliliters of water.
A June 13 report from the Southeastern Vermont Watershed Alliance ranked 11 of the 17 tested sites in excess of that standard; In a June 27 report, that number shifted to 11 of 19 tested sites. So, before swimming, consider these following numbers:
-- Near Bartonsville Bridge in Rockingham, water had E. coli greater
than 2,420 per 100 milliliters.
-- Saxtons River: At Bellows Falls/Westminster "sandy beach" (239); below the wastewater treatment facility (262); and at Stickney’s field swimming hole (249).
-- West River: At Rowes Road in South Londonderry (345); above the Route 100 bridge in South Londonderry (299); and below Mountain Marketplace in Londonderry (two results, 273 and 249).
Other significant findings of the alliance’s most recent report:
-- Two sites that had exceeded governmental E. coli standards,
Whetstone Brook at Dettman Drive in West Brattleboro and Rock River at Indian Love Call above the Route 30 bridge, fell back into compliance.
-- Five West River sites -- Milk House Meadows, Brattleboro Professional Center, Dummerston Covered Bridge, Brookline Bridge and Ellen Ware Road swim hole -- scored well.
Another round of tests is scheduled for July 11.
In short, know what’s going on in the water you want to swim in, before you jump in.
Commonsense tells us to make sure we’re not swimming alone, or to know how deep the water is before diving in, or to not swim while heavily intoxicated ... consider these a couple more not-so-common things to keep in mind.