Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pesticides - the myth of home owners use

For a while, it looked like it was true.
I was seeing a pattern, most, not all, wells that showed pesticides in the tests, were close to a homes foundation.  That was a pattern.  Then the health department did its "50 well survey" and we ended up with only 35 tests (that was because out of 130+ people contact, only 35 responded in a "we want our water tested") and we also checked out other information.  Also, when some one would call to ask about submitting results, i would ask how close to the home the well was. 
It turns out that most wells in Stamford were drilled or placed within 30 feet of the foundation.
This meant that all my earlier thoughts were null and void.  If a majority of wells are close to a home's foundation, you can not make a coorelation to the quanity testing positve to pesticides with the closeness of a well to a home.
Of course this is not everything that made me change my view...I had one well sampled where i knew there was pesticide application down, i had even found a bottle of chlordane in a storage shed there in the 80's.  The well is an old one, dug in the early 1900's (1905 in think) and is only 50' deep with a well pit.  It is just outside the back door.  Knowing all of this, i expected it to come back positive - nada - zip, no trace down to 0.005 ug/L.
Of course on the other side of the coin, there are a number of deep wells drilled in the 1990's, that have come back positive.
This would lead me to say it was more the way we disposed of those chemicals, rather than the way we used them.
So the garnering of information goes on...

Friday, September 16, 2011


Today is a quiet day of remembrance because last Friday a close friend and colleague past away.
Peter Dombrowski was arguably one of the most dedicated environmental professionals that i had the privilege to know.  To me he was someone who could make you smile and my fondest memory is at a Health Department Staff meeting where division directors were asked to present on stage - and he sang a rousing number from "The Pirates of Penzance".
The following are excerpts of what others have said:

Carolyn Baisley:
It is with great sadness that I send you this message of losing a great friend and co- worker to cancer. After becoming ill several months ago, Peter was hospitalized for a few weeks and sent home with a course of treatment. Although he seemed to be responding well, he suddenly took a downward turn. Some of you have worked with Peter over the years since he worked for the City of Stamford for 28 years. During that time he served as the city's Director of Environmental Health for ten years . Upon retirement from Stamford, he returned to his roots as a Registered Sanitarian and came to work at the Greenwich Department of Health for almost 13 years. In serving the public for 41 years in total he made a significant contribution to the field of public health. Above all he was a wonderful person to know and we will miss him a great deal. At this time, I do not know the service arrangements however, I am sure it will be in the Stamford Advocate shortly. If you would like to send a card to the family it can be sent to them in care of the department( address listed below). Please inform your staff since some of them either knew and/or worked with him.

Patice Urban-Sulik:
I was devastated to hear this news. Peter was one of my closest colleagues from my days in Stamford. He spent a lot of time training me. He was a wonderful person and had such a great sense of humor. His psychology background was arguably the most valuable skillset to bring to the position.

A. Dennis McBride (Dr McBride)I am so grieved by losing Pete that it is difficult to speak about it. Here’s a
Many years ago, I promoted a reluctant Pete to be Stamford's Environmental Health
Chief. (He was just too modest to outright accept the offer. I think that Scotty,
his wife, finally convinced him.) After several years, he retired to work happily
in a second career in Greenwich. 
Pete was as simply brilliant public health practitioner. He taught me more about
local environmental health than anyone. Pete unselfishly shared his knowledge.
His approach to problem solving was both practical and imaginative. In all of my
jobs, I have used profusely what Pete taught me. Pete was a loyal, committed and
courageous worker.
Pete’s people skills were phenomenal. Something had to be wrong with you, if you
didn’t like… no love Pete. Pete could close a restaurant and the owner would
defend Pete and say, “it wasn’t Pete’s fault.”
But his sense of humor was notorious. “Pete” stories are reverberating in the
Stamford and Greenwich Health Departments bringing about both laughter and tears.
I know that Pete would like us to laugh but, now, we are stuck with tears.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Politics and money and our health do not mix

The US Epa recently decided not to revisit rules on ozone, even though new information was availible. The reason?  Because it would be too costly to industry in these bad economic times.
Now this is typical of the US EPA, but this attitude then does tricle down to the state and local level.  Even in Stamford, the well water ordinace is being considered in not just a health light..."Pavia said he has received the ordinance but hasn't looked at it yet. He said he wants to find out more about the cost and staffing implications associated with the legislation before signing it.
This from the Stamford Advocate...
Read more:

Of course this means that things have gotten down to money, not just shold not be this way.

Well Caps

Since they were available, pitless adapters have been strongly recommended for all wells which had "pits"  - dug 2 to 3 foot in diameter pit that a well was sunk into as much as 20 feet.  They are usually lined with stome, to prevent colapse and almost alwats had water in them, cover the actually well head.  The pits were considered a major way that surface water could get into the well.
The truth be told, in 5,000 some tests, a surprising few alctually had problems, even in the worst of conditions. 
Now pitless adapters are a good thing, they raise the well head above the ground so that water can not (or should not) penetrate, allowing normal soil to do its thing and clean the water that is taken from a well.
Today, I had two examples were the work done to setup a pitless adapter was so poor, that it made the situation worse.
One a unevenly cut casing had a loosely fitting cap place on top of it.  bacteria was found in the well.
The other, the pitless adapter was loosely attaches to the main casing, so that the seal rotted away, allowing soil bacteria to get into the well.
How do you prevent such things?  The only way I can think of is to test the water for bacteria in a heavy rain situation to see if the work holds up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I have been aware that after heavy storms, sewage plants which combine sewer treatment and storm water, by pass large amount of untreated or minimally treated sewage.
I have also known that older pipes for the sanitary sewers are usually built below everything else and when it rains, the is infiltration of storm water into them.
What i did not know was that our multi million dollar state of the art sewage treatment plant, without having storm water to contend with would stop being able to treat sewage using the new UV system because of this infliltration of storm water.  This apparently has been going on since the system was installed some years ago, but never reported...that is until the person in charge finally retired earlier this year.
That this occurs is not as upsetting as the fact that the information was hidden from state and local officals who need to be aware of such things.  The hiddeness is also upsetting because there are many people, including myself, who has supported the idea that the sewage treatment plant was one of the best run in the nation.  That might not be so.
Do i think it impacted swimming areas - no.  The FDA did a dye test which showed it took more than 24 hours for the discharge waters to travel a mile to the end of a point at the end of the harbor the plant discharges into.
Do i think shellfish waters are affected - yes, especially with new research showing that viruses are much longer lived in shellfish (the study was specifically about oysters, but...) than bacteria and that the normal time for cleaning (called deputerization) after problems for viruses (which are the main culprit in sickness) is much longer than any one thought.
Thanks for hiding those facts from us. .. NOT!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Research Salinity

I often look at things, try to see if i have a good idea and then test it...this is such research, which ended up with me rejecting the use of salinity as a quick way of figuring out what might go wrong at Stamfords beaches....
There was something that i did find out that is useful, there has been some ideas that there is a large influx of fresh water going into the sound from "Ground water" as oposed to surface water. A quality control sample taked 1 mile off the Stamford shore line had no more salinity than the normal levels found at the beaches. Does not seem to be the case.
This also shows that no matter what test you might use, if you know your shoreline and what affects it, history and action because of that knowledg,e is far faster than any test.

Salinity– a tool without promise and not as quick as a preemptive closure


Over the course of several years, the Stamford health Department Lab has been doing additional work on all Long Island Sound recreational waters. Besides the traditional bacteriological tests, various chemical parameters have been measured, pH salinity, chloride, nitrite and turbidity. While all have had some promising results and most had drawbacks, salinity showed the best correlation, in Stamford, with bacterial levels. The one very simple statement that can be made is that salinity gave us information we already knew. When fresh water intruded into the beach water, from rain that was significant enough to cause a significant decrease in the salinity, the beaches were already closed by a policy of preemptive closure due to a measured amount of rain. Small variances (± 0.5%) in salinity did not indicate more than normal tidal flow and were not useful in determining bacteriological quality, but could help in understanding currents along the shore.

Sampling Discussion

Since August of 2010, the Stamford Health Department has been analyzing all recreational beach water taken for enterococcus bacteriological quality for salinity also. This is only 195 samples for the Stamford recreational beaches, but does include samples taken at various tides and weather conditions. This is obviously not as large a sample set as our predictive model, based on rainfall amounts, which used over 8,000 samples to confirm its efficacy, however for Stamford, we can make conclusions even on this small sample set.
Previously, we attempted to use chloride measurement (using an US EPA titration method), however because dilutions needed to be great, large errors were introduced into the results and this data was not used.
Small variances (< 0.10%) between samples of each sample set were understood when comparing to known fresh water influences and the currents based on tides.

Instrumentation, Standards and Method

Oakton SALT 6 Acorn series battery operated Salinity meter
Salinity standards 3.5 % and 1.65%
Used in the laboratory only – though this is a portable model
Internal quality control check when turned on
Standardized with use at 0.165% and 3.5% initially
One standard reevaluated at 10 samples and at the end of the series
A sample was analyzed in duplicate for each set
A known amount of sample was added to perform a standard addition evaluation
Duplicate samples were taken and evaluated for each sample set
A sample set was taken from 1 mile off shore at Buoy 38 to ascertain if there is a “plume” of ground water influencing the salinity of bathing water
Temperatures were recorded before each sample set reading
Rain is recorded for each sample set

Quality Control

The low standard (0.165) average recovery was 102.33% with a minimum of 97.56% and maximum of 109.76%
The high standard (3.5) average recovery was 99.13% with a minimum of 93.71% and maximum of 100.29%
The standard addition average recovery was 99.32% with a minimum of 97.97% and maximum of 100.00%
Duplicate reading of the same sample had a comparison average of 100.26% with the minimum of 98.93% and a maximum of 101.65%
The end standard average recovery was 100.52% with a minimum of 98.57% and a maximum of 112.50%
Duplicate samples had an average difference of -0.01 with a standard deviation of 0.01
Samples from 1 mile off shore had % salinities of 2.84, 2.89, 2.88 and 2.89 which is a difference of less than 0.3 from the onshore average
Temperatures were in the range of 21 to 26 C during the readings


8 samples had enterococcus levels greater than 104 CFUs/100 mL. Salinity measurements were below average in 3 of those samples. A rain event greater than one inch was recorded for 7 of the samples and the other sample had a rain event greater than 2”, two days previous and is near a storm drain. The salinity did not indicate a problem with fresh storm water intrusion at that sample, but previous testing had showed this particular sample location was prone to bacterial elevations 2 days after a rain event greater than one inch.


Not only was salinity not a good indicator of bacterial elevations more than 50% of the time, rain measurements had already closed the beach water for swimming before the samples were taken, making the identification of the problem using salinity pointless.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

It does not take Rocket Science

As the summer closes i again am amazed at the number of swimming pools that could not get things correct.
I mean to keep you pH at somewhere around 7.4 and free chlorine between 0.8 and 3 is really not that hard, but most "operators "  just do not care.
The number of complaints of pools ( not city run, but at condos or clubs) is amazing, but what really gets me is the number who fail not once or twice, but three nd four times after they have been told what to do.
Green pools with no chlorine, pools with so much chlorine it would peel the cloth right off a swimmer, spas too hot...this gets me fairly insenced and still it goes on...