Tag Archives: water

Water, Water, Everywhere

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, February 17-23, 2018

“Water, water, everywhere,” part of a line from Coleridge’s 18th-century “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” is undoubtedly quoted (perhaps unwittingly) by our architects and planners at Lathrop’s east campus these days, as they plan new buildings that must avoid our land’s extensive web of streams and wetlands.

But our water is much more than an irritating limit on our building plans.  Like Coleridge’s mariner, we face a much more complicated paradox.  He and his fellow sailors, becalmed at sea and out of drinking water, have “water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” The mariner has killed an albatross, and the poem explores the disastrous outcome of this violation of nature and of life.  To be redeemed, the mariner must come to a deeper, more reverent view of his world, its water, and its creatures. Continue reading Water, Water, Everywhere


Walking on Water: The Barnes Aquifer at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

(First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Nov. 4, 2016)

If you walk the east campus woods, you are walking on top of a small portion of the Barnes Aquifer, which stretches under Easthampton, Southampton, Westfield, and Holyoke. It’s one of the most important water sources in western Massachusetts.

About 14,000 years ago, melting water from glaciers carried clay and silt down to the sea, but deposited the heavier sand and gravel right here, as a great underground aquifer, perfect for collecting and purifying water. In 2015, Easthampton won a gold medal for the best tasting water in the U.S.

Surface water soaks down into the aquifer, along with whatever pollutants it is carrying. Roads, homes, and businesses can interfere with healthy regeneration of the aquifer

Water moves out of the aquifer in two ways: the water moves up into the bottoms of streams that flow over it.  In at least two places on our east campus, streams emerge from underground, as in the photo at the top of this page.  To find this disappearing stream, walk down the mid-woods path, then keep going straight across the mid-woods meadow, bearing a little to the left, to an orange flag at the woods’ edge.  The stream is a short way into the woods.  Flags mark the spot.  Be careful not to step into a hole. Trail map at https://lathropland.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/trail-eh.pdf

Also, multiple wells supply 1.2 billion gallons of Barnes Aquifer water per year to 60,000 people.

About 25 years ago, tests showed that some wells drawing from a part of the aquifer exceeded federal standards for contamination by TCE (trichloroethylene), a common degreaser and cleaning agent and a suspected carcinogen.  Experts ran hundreds of tests and tried to identify contamination sources. Easthampton built a treatment plant, and Holyoke closed its contaminated wells. The Barnes Aquifer Protection Committee now works to protect the quality of the aquifer (http://bapac.pvpc.org/html/more-bapac.html). One of its projects is to prevent development on key plots of land that are important to recharging the aquifer.

A proposal to protect one of these key plots will be considered by the Easthampton City Council on Wed., Nov. 16, at 6 p.m.  Please join us, as several members of the Lathrop Land Conservation Committee drive (over the Barnes Aquifer) to the meeting to show our support for the project   Contact me (walvoord@nd.edu or 203-5086) if you’d like a ride. More information at http://kestreltrust.org/PDF/470/CookInfoSheet1Ehamp.pdf

2016 — The Year of the Brooks

by Barbara Walvoord

In the coming weeks, you may see folks wearing wading boots and carrying clipboards walking around on both campuses. They’ll be from our own Land Conservation Committee, from Polatin Ecological Services (our contractor for invasives removal), and from the town Conservation Commissions (who give permission for invasives removal along streams and wetlands).

They will be here because we have received two grants, as well as resident gifts, to focus this year on the ecology of our brooks–Pine Brook on the north campus, and Bassett Brook on the east campus, as well as their banks, floodplains, and smaller tributaries.

So let’s begin our Year of the Brooks with the big picture. Both our brooks flow eventually into the Connecticut River, which makes Continue reading 2016 — The Year of the Brooks

The Waters of Lathrop #4: The Teaberry Pond

by Barbara Walvoord

On the east campus, behind the Teaberry Lane houses, near the blue garden shed, is a beautiful little pond, full of native cattails, with grasses and wild flowers along the edge.

But also along the edge, you may see a piece of thick black rubber exposed under the grasses and stones. That’s your clue that this is what the state of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection handbook calls a “wet basin with impermeable bottom.” Continue reading The Waters of Lathrop #4: The Teaberry Pond

The Waters of Lathrop #3: Stormwater Management

by Barbara Walvoord

When Lathrop East was built, laws mandated that we install systems to prevent  rainwater and snowmelt from polluting our wetlands and streams. Run-off carries pesticides, road salt, fertilizer, and other nasty stuff, and is the main polluter of the Connecticut River (Northampton Open Spaces Plan, p. 28).

Our Lathrop systems work in two ways: they slow down the water before it drains into a wetland or stream, or they hold the water Continue reading The Waters of Lathrop #3: Stormwater Management

The Waters of Lathrop #2: Vernal Pools

by Barbara Walvoord

“Vernal” means spring, which is a long way away. But Lathrop’s vernal pools are in their winter garb, covered with ice, and very beautiful.

A vernal pool by definition has no outlet above ground. It fills with water in certain seasons, especially spring, and then is generally (but not always) dry by late summer.

On the east campus, if you start at the blue shed and walk down the wide path into the woods a few hundred yards, you’ll see a vernal pool through the trees on your left.

Another vernal pool, pictured with this article, you can find by walking along that wide path all the way to the meadow, and then crossing the meadow and going to Continue reading The Waters of Lathrop #2: Vernal Pools

The Waters of Lathrop #1: Underground Waters

by Barbara Walvoord

I intend this column to be the first in a series on the waters of Lathrop–on both campuses, the brooks, wetlands, rainfall, storm water management systems, and–for today–the waters under our ground.

The closest I could get to photographing our underground water is this hole in the Easthampton woods where underground water emerges as a stream.

Our Easthampton campus sits on top of the Barnes aquifer, which provides most of the water for Easthampton and several neighboring towns, making us very vulnerable if this aquifer should dry up or get contaminated. Surface water–rain and run-off–replenish the aquifer.

Easthampton taps its aquifer by 5 wells. Two wells produce water pure enough to go directly into our homes. The others need costly treatment for pollutants. This is a familiar story, isn’t it? Some purity and some threat–same as for our woods and fields on both campuses. Continue reading The Waters of Lathrop #1: Underground Waters