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A bridge over contaminated water

lead contamination in Norwalk River lead in river

Here in our hometown of Norwalk CT we have an aging railroad bridge which needs to be replaced.  There has been much controversy surrounding the relatively small 526 foot bridge.

First there is the cost. the plans, released September 6, call for a four-track movable bridge estimated to cost between $425 million and $460 million (in 2020 dollars) and take 40 months to complete. That's over $800,000 per foot of bridge!  The 120-year old Walk Bridge, a vital rail link in the northeast corridor, is at the end of its useful life.

The other main concern is the river's troubled environmental past, which is where we come in.  Using our Atomic absorption spectrophotometer equipped with a Graphite furnace, we have started testing water upstream, and down stream from the bridge to get a baseline of the metal concentrations.  What we found so far is not good. Up to 140 PPB (parts per billion) concentration of Lead were detected in the river water. 

By comparison, Flint Michigan, the poster child for lead contamination, had levels of 27 PPB in 90% of homes and levels as high as 127 PPB in some homes. 

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/15/this-is-how-toxic-flints-water-really-is/?utm_term=.8204867a311e

What's even more disturbing is that the watershed for this river, is considered extremely clean just a dozen miles upstream. So it would appear that the problem is close to home.

from Wikipedia: The Norwalk River originates in ponds located in Ridgefield, Connecticut. These ponds empty into Ridgefield’s approximately 500-acre (2.0 km2) "Great Swamp". The river continues through Ridgefield, and is augmented by the "Great Pond" (507 feet (155 m) above sea level), one of the purest lakes in Connecticut due to its being fed by underwater springs.

I intend to keep checking the river water as construction goes from start to finish to see what if anything else gets stirred up.We will also try to determine where this lead is leaching from. 

The landfill next to I-95 may be a good place to start.

Eric Anderson

General Manager

Buck Scientific



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  • Diane Lauricella on

    Interested in talking. Would like to know sampling locations…I have some additional options…want independent, strategic river/harbor test areas before bridge construction begins.
    One word of caution: Comparing Fresh drinking water lead level and known causation in Flynt MI is somewhat misleading…apples to rotten oranges…
    Standards are different in river/harbor testing.

    This is a teachable moment so let’s keep it real…

  • Wilfredo Perez on

    Mybe it’s coming from the waste water treatment plant right next to it ??


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