On Sunday, November 5, Raritan Headwaters will continue its tradition of celebrating “Lanternenlaufen,” a historic European festival marking the end of the agricultural year and the beginning of the harvest, with two walks through the meadows of Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve.
“Nothing’s more fun than a parade of colorful lanterns on the first autumn night after the end of Daylight Savings Time,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, RHA’s executive director. “Festive music will play as we carry our lanterns through the meadows, and afterwards we’ll enjoy snacks around a bonfire.”
Can you imagine a day without water? Just one day? If you’re like most people, even going 24 hours without water is nearly unthinkable.
For starters, it would mean no morning shower, no coffee or tea, no brushing your teeth, no washing laundry or dishes, no flushing the toilet, no watering your plants or garden, no cooking most recipes. It would mean terrible thirst and the inability to perform strenuous physical work or exercise.
A day without water would bring most businesses and public services screeching to a halt. You can’t run a school or a hotel or a factory without water. Water is essential for agriculture, manufacturing, energy production, transportation and more.
Oct. 12 is “Imagine a Day Without Water” day, sponsored by the U.S. Water Alliance. The Alliance’s Value of Water campaign is meant to draw public attention to our reliance on clean, abundant water – and the critical infrastructure to bring it to our homes and businesses.
From June 15-30, volunteers and staff monitored 67 sites along the North Branch and South Branch of the Raritan River and their tributaries. We collected biological samples of the critters that live on the bottom of the stream (benthic macroinvertebrates) and recorded observations of the stream and surrounding habitat conditions. The biological samples are analyzed at a State certified laboratory and provide water quality ratings for each site.
We added four new sites this year along the Spruce Run, Rocky Run, and Capoolong Creek and South Branch Raritan River in order to fill in monitoring gaps in the western region of our watershed. This expansion helped us to achieve our goal to grow our stream monitoring program to include at least one stream monitoring site in each of our 52 subwatersheds!
On September 14, Raritan Headwaters co-sponsored a workshop with Columbia University and NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), “Informing Residents of the Health Effects of Arsenic in Drinking Water & the Need to Test and Treat Private Wells” at the Hunterdon County Library in Flemington.
Twenty-five representatives from municipalities where arsenic often exceeds New Jersey drinking water standards attended the event. Participants learned about the sources of arsenic in our wells, the areas where there is high arsenic in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, the health effects of exposure, and testing and treatment options as well as how municipalities can reach residents to inform them of the risks. Presenters included scientists from Raritan Headwaters, Columbia University, NJDEP and the Hunterdon County Division of Public Health Services. A common theme throughout the workshop was the importance of everyone testing their well for arsenic and a variety of other contaminants.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is seeking your help in locating harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the headwaters region of the Raritan River Watershed and throughout the state. Citizens can now report a suspected HAB by calling the DEP Hotline at 1-877-WARNDEP (927-6337) or send a mobile alert through the WARN NJDEP mobile app (available via iTunes, Google Play or Windows Phone).
HABs are caused by naturally occurring blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, single-celled organisms that rely on photosynthesis to turn sunlight into food. While present under normal conditions in freshwater lakes and streams, excessive nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen, high water temperature, and still water can cause cyanobacteria to grow excessively and become a HAB. You may recall the HAB incident at Lake Eerie that led the city of Toledo, Ohio to warn their residents to avoid drinking tap water back in 2016. Of the 17 potential HABs reported in New Jersey so far this year, 12 have been confirmed as harmful algal blooms according to the NJDEP’s HAB website.
Nothing says autumn in the country more than colorful leaves, fresh apple cider, horse-drawn hayrides, bluegrass music, pumpkins and scarecrows.
Visitors to Raritan Headwaters’ 38th annual Old Fashioned Country Fair will enjoy a full day of fall activities, food and live music on Sunday, Oct. 8, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve.
“Country Fair is a great day of outdoor family fun, and it has been a tradition in the Somerset Hills since 1980,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director of the Bedminster-based watershed watchdog. “We invite the community to come out for a fun day in the country that supports Raritan Headwaters’ mission of protecting clean water.”
Perennial favorite activities include wagon rides with a team of Clydesdale horses, a field maze, pumpkin painting, scarecrow dressing, beekeeper demonstrations, and appearances by the Raptor Trust and Tewksbury Foot Bassets. New this year will be a pumpkin sling for launching mini-pumpkins across a field.
In late July, Eastern Concrete Materials, Inc. discharged sludge from their quarry in Glen Gardner into the Spruce Run. The sludge impacted about 1.7 miles of the creek and traveled as far as the Spruce Run Reservoir. The clean-up effort is continuing. Spruce Run is a Category-1 Trout Production stream, which means water quality in the stream is supposed to be protected because the stream is critically important habitat.
Raritan Headwaters responded to the spill. Our staff is visiting Spruce Run regularly to monitor the clean-up, support local residents, and address our concerns with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Raritan Headwaters, the region’s watershed watchdog, and Columbia University will hold a free seminar on the health effects of arsenic in drinking water from 3-5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14, at the Hunterdon County Library at 314 Route 12.
Local government and health leaders are invited to attend the seminar, which is part of Raritan Headwaters’ ongoing “Watershed Tool for Local Leaders” series. Members of the public may also attend.
According to Dr. Kristi MacDonald, director of science for Raritan Headwaters, the seminar will focus on the importance of informing residents of the health risks of arsenic in drinking water and the need to regularly test and treat private wells.
“Hunterdon County is a hot spot for arsenic in well water,” said Dr. MacDonald. “Eighty percent of county residents get their drinking water from private wells, so it’s crucial that local leaders take an active role in promoting well testing.”
Public comment period now open
Raritan Headwaters is pleased to announce that it is applying for accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, a national group that evaluates land conservation organizations to make sure they meet quality standards. A public comment period is now open and will run through Nov. 6.
“We’re seeking accreditation because it’s the right thing to do – for our members, our donors and local citizens who look to us to stand up for clean water and the lands that protect it,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director of the Bedminster-based nonprofit.
We’re bidding a fond farewell to Carmela Buono, our 2016-17 Watershed Ambassador, who spent the past year traveling around the Raritan Headwaters region to raise public awareness of watershed issues and how human actions affect water quality.
“This past year I learned that when you empower people with the knowledge and science about the ecology of a watershed, the passion to protect and act will follow,” said Carmela, who is heading off to Binghamton University to pursue a master’s degree in biology and ecology.
Carmela came to us through the New Jersey Watershed Ambassadors Program, a community-oriented AmeriCorps environmental program coordinated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.