The Pootatuck Watershed Association is pleased to announce Citizen River Watch. This program urges recreational users of local trails to call Newtown Communications in the event of “unusual occurrences” in or along our watercourses and wetlands. Signs have been installed in several locations along the Pootatuck River and Deep Brook (more signs in other locations are on the way), providing information on what kinds of circumstances to note, the phone number to call, and the geographic coordinates indicating the location of each sign.

If someone should see or smell something of concern, such as numerous dead fish, hazardous waste, obvious discoloration of water, foul odor, foam, oil sheen, dumping, etc., he or she can call Dispatch (203-270-4200), report the condition, and provide the coordinates of the nearest sign. Once the call has come in, Newtown Communications will contact the Land Use department (during business hours) or members of the PWA board (during other times), and someone will go to the site to assess the damage, collect samples if pertinent, and notify CT DEEP or other authorities if necessary.

The Citizen River Watch program was initiated by Joe Hovious, PWA vice president, Robert Cedergren, a police captain with Aquarion Water Company police, and Robert’s son Gunnar. Maureen Will, Director of Newtown Emergency Communications, and Kevin O’Connell, Newtown GIS specialist, also took part in the planning. Gunnar Cedergren designed the sign, patiently working with the PWA board through many revisions and comments. He also went out recently with Mr. Hovious to install signs. More signs will be installed as landowner permissions come in. Using his dad’s portable GPS unit, Gunnar made labels with the coordinates and a location number for each sign. Once the signs are all installed, he will create a spreadsheet with this information to give to the Newtown GIS department, where the locations can be added to the town’s database.

Gunnar is a a lifelong Sandy Hook resident. He learned to fly fish about six years ago and came to love the local watercourses as a result. “Once I learned how to fish and got out on the rivers, I saw how beautiful they are and how nice it is to spend time there,” he recalled. During the time since graduation, Gunnar has, in addition to job hunting, volunteered for the Candlewood Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited and for the Pootatuck Watershed Association. “Joining these groups and helping to keep our water clean has been a really good experience for me,” Gunnar said. Mr. Hovious remarked, “In the recent past there have been questions from residents regarding whom to notify about incidents along the town’s streams.

The River Watch program provides an opportunity for Newtown residents and others who enjoy our waters to help monitor and protect the health of this critical resource. The new signs provide an easy alert number to call and help to locate an issue should one arise. The Pootatuck Watershed Association extends its thanks to the volunteers and town staff who made this program possible.”