Dear <<First Name>>,
With all that's going on, you've probably not noticed that the Roe Jan Watershed Community hasn't been in touch this spring. That's because with the situation in such rapid change, it's been hard to know what could be said that wouldn't need to be rapidly updated.
For a time we were trying to plot a course that would allow continued sampling within the ever-increasing constraints imposed by the pandemic. But now, working in tandem with Riverkeeper's Water Quality Program leaders and the Bard Water Lab, we've decided to cancel the start of 2020 sampling. Here is what Sebastian Pillitteri, Riverkeeper's Community Science Coordinator, wrote to me yesterday.
We will be postponing the start of the sampling season for 2020 to protect the health of you, us, and our communities. Due to the dynamics of this situation we cannot say when we will be able to begin sampling again, though we will be assessing regularly. The rationale for postponing our season is to protect your health, our health, and the health of our communities. There are many knowns and unknowns regarding transmission of the COVID-19 virus through feces. What we do know is that the COVID-19 virus has been found in feces and that there is a potential risk of transmission through untreated sewage in water. In addition, as an organization that practices science and advocates for the use of science in decision making, we strongly believe in following the pandemic-related policies of New York State, which means that all non-essential activities be put on hold, including sampling.
In his letter Sebastian also identified three criteria for resuming sampling when conditions improve:
- Emerging research about the risks related to contact with COVID-19 virus in sewage-contaminated water clarifies concerns about transmission risk.
- Guidelines for social distancing are relaxed sufficiently to allow for sampling.
- Our university partners have access to their laboratory spaces.
What the pandemic can't change is the value of what we've done over the past four years. We have a baseline of data on the Roe Jan that has already been useful to other communities as a baseline. We have a community of citizen scientists who now have an increased understanding of the kill. And we have a group that will move forward with this project when conditions allow.
Our friends to the south, the Saw Kill Watershed Community, has a newsletter, which you can read here
Please stay safe and healthy.