After several weeks of recording high levels of e.coli at the North Beach of Puffers Pond, both Puffers beaches tested within safe limits as of Thursday, according to Town Conservation Director David Ziomek. New water quality tests typically take place on Tuesdays with results posted on Wednesdays. Updates on water testing at Puffers can be found here.
High bacteria levels persisted at Wentworth Conservation Area (Stanley Street). Swimmers should avoid swimming at Wentworth Conservation Area / Stanley Street. Ziomek said that high readings from the Fort River are likely to continue throughout the summer.
The town is actively exploring sources of contamination within the watersheds, including a $276,000 state grant to improve Fearing Brook, which drains about half of Amherst’s storm water from downtown into the Fort River.
Ziomek noted that for the Cushman watershed, which includes Puffers Pond, much of the upstream land is protected. Nonetheless there appears to be some contamination coming from upstream though the sources remain undefined. He also said that the high bacteria counts seem to be a recent problem, occurring more frequently in the last three years and notably after heavy rains. Dog waste has been implicated elsewhere throughout the country as a significant source of water contamination in public parks and recreation areas. Ziomek acknowledged the possibility that this could be a problem for Amherst as well. He noted that dogs are not allowed on town beaches, and that the town currently maintains five dog waste stations in public parks and conservation areas, and supplies them with bags, and that the public can help by being vigilant about picking up after their pets.