Water Closet for August 21, 2015
[pullquote] “The outlet pipe to the pond is a foot too high so won’t let the water and fish go directly on. The four-score fish admired were doomed to suffocate. “[/pullquote] Friday’s Council on Aging/ Conservation Commission walkers began to feel the morning’s growing heat and humidity after an up and down two miles in the wilds of west Middleton near the North Reading line. The last half-mile on the shady, level path on the north side of Middleton Pond was welcomed by the tired old timers. Near the end of the hike they came upon a pine-shaded, clear puddle with many blue-gray fish. The cool scene delighted until its source and significance dawned on them. Despite their apparent color, one old Closeteer thought they were sunfish down from Emerson Bog three-quarters mile away. On either end of the 4-square meter pool were the open ends of two-foot diameter pipes. The one coming in from the north is from a 150 acre shallow-bushy reservoir, Emerson Bog, on Emerson Brook. Another, 25 feet away, takes water when the pool is full a tenth of a mile on to Middleton Pond, a deeper lake-like reservoir. Water is pumped over from Emerson Bog to Middleton Pond when water is low there. Just before the road circling the pond there is a break in the pipes allowing woodland swales of water when high to enter and go under the road in the pipe to the pond. When the pump stops, the pipe from Emerson Bog empties into the shallow stone bottomed pond between the inlet and outlet pipes. The tiny pond is subject to water loss through evaporation and seepage into the ground. The outlet pipe to the pond is a foot too high so won’t let the water and fish go directly on. The four-score fish admired were doomed to suffocate.
Hiker Al Rosner suggested to an old Closeteer that he return with his dip net and buckets and transport them the hard way to the pond. The next morning the Closeteer found the puddle half the size it had been 24 hours before. The fish still seemed healthy despite warmer water and thus significantly lower dissolved oxygen. Despite this they put up a lively dance to avoid the dip net. Crevices between loose stones on the bottom provided some refuge. After two slow trudges carrying buckets, about 40 rescued fish were in Middleton Pond their fate unknown.*
While walking back and fourth the Closeteer fondly remembered walker Dave Shaw’s story of when he was a brave Middleton boy. Now in his seventies he likes to tell us on our walks when crossing over the puddle-to-pond pipe of his adventure. No doubt on dares, he and friends crawled the almost 1/10 mile starting at the pond end through the two-foot diameter pipe. After freeing the fish the Closeteer bent and looked in and saw a distant circle of light, the same that had no doubt encouraged young Dave. Thoughts of refugees moving now worldwide from war, climate change, and terrible poverty without clear views of light at the ends of tunnels crossed his mind.
Dave and companions didn’t get trapped or flushed down by water from Emerson bog but each year millions of animals, especially fish, are the victims of manmade structures built for convenience without a thought given to the lives of other creatures. Many of the millions of culverts under roads in just our state alone are built too high at their ends thus leaving traps or barriers to passage. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife personnel, well aware of this problem, with Town conservation commissions have been slow in doing something about it. Under some fairly recent rules new construction must take these barriers and potential traps into account. As recalled here in the Water Closet before, road building Colonists and their descendents built dams and a vast network of roads fragmenting the habitats of animals that once moved freely place to place. Breeding populations were isolated and lost. Going along with our theme you might say they were “trapped” on the wrong sides of the “tracks”.
In that sense perhaps the most terrible of trappings were done by dams in rivers along our coasts. These dams trapped the anadromous fish on the saltwater sides of their lifecycles. Unable to get to the reproductive sides, ancient spawning waters up rivers, their populations quickly became endangered. The once plentiful Atlantic salmon may be approaching extinction. Few river herring are counted by Ipswich River Watershed Association volunteers each spring at the Ipswich fish ladder. Before the dams hundreds of thousands swam up the Ipswich and on into her tributaries where new generations began.
Another man-caused accident of entrapment on the tributary Emerson Brook was remembered upon Friday’s finding. About 15 years ago a Danvers Water Department worker was flushing the overflow pipe through the pump-house at the Lake Street dam. It had been a dry summer and the impounded water in Emerson Bog above the dam was low. Fish from the large shallow reservoir had concentrated in deep water just above the dam. The flushing usually takes less than half an hour; the worker left the intake gate open for several hours while off on an errand. A couple days later a person living near the dam called the Conservation Commission’s agent about a stench wafting up from the brook. The agent checked and found several ponds in low areas of the previously drought dry brook. They were filled with thousands of dead fish and live brown bullheads gulping at the surface for air. The water was black with rotting corpses and bacteria. The fish had been trapped in the pools without any cleansing stream current to free them. The agent and fisherman friend Fran Masse lugged many buckets of bullheads back up to clean water above the dam. Bill Klosowski who made mulch each year for his greenhouse-landscaping business sent a septic system pump-out truck for the corpses and water. He must have made the richest mulch mix ever that year.
Others huge traps often recalled by an old Closeteer who grew up near the Merrimack River were those of summers and warm water when the pogies (Atlantic menhaden) came in the rivers by the millions. They were driven in by voracious blue fish and stripped bass. The warm sewage water down from the industrial cities with little oxygen due to lots of bacteria suffocated the pogies. Their rotting bodies were found in stinking rows along both banks. Boys stopped swimming on ebb tides even on hot days. The pogies came and were trapped by toxic water. Municipal septic systems have been built thanks to the Federal Clean Water Act. The Merrimack and many other rivers are clean again.
Let coastal dams go the way of the Curtis Dam on Boston Brook and the Edward’s Dam once a barrier across the mighty Kennebec River. These dams were removed in the last decade. Spawning fish are going back up the Kennebec. The Ipswich River has two more dams to go before it is free for fish. Let civil engineers design animal friendly wide culverts to be installed at proper elevations for fish and other animals using river and stream corridors. Fish were here long before us and may be here after. It is the fair and right thing to do for their sakes and ours.
* Monday morning 42 fish were found dead on the bottom of the dried up pool. They had avoided the rescuer’s net by hiding in crevices between the bottom stones. A Danvers Water Treatment Plant worker said they had pumped water over from Emerson Bog on Wednesday and Thursday. The full pool between the pipes had dried up within 3 days. The trapped fish not removed suffocated. By Monday their corpses had loss their color and were covered with flies.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||May||June||July||Aug|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||4.06||3.95||3.89||3.37|
|2015 Central Watershed Actual||0.94||5.87||2.12||2.3 as of 8/18**|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Aug 18, 2015 Normal . . . 6.7 CFS Current Rate . . . 0.14 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru July.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Aug.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584