First Water Test of 2014

Cootie Lab Mar 30, 2014

Cootie Lab Mar 30, 2014

I’m “cooking” again – not in the sense of Julia Child or “Breaking Bad”; but currently incubating water samples.  I took samples from 5 points along the Cuddy Drain; a sample from the Tawsley/Holbrook Drain; and 2 from the Boot Lake Drain.  I should see a “preview” in 24 hours, and will have a final count in 48 hours.

I took this picture to show that I do this carefully: I use sterile 100 ml sample bottles; I use sterile/disposable 1.7 ml pipettes (using one per sample); my fingers never touch the 3-M Petrifilm media.  And when I’m done – EVERYTHING gets cleaned with Clorox (particularly the dip pole that reaches into the water with the sample bottle).

It was a perfect day for sampling water.  Cold enough (32-degrees air temp) that there was no melting going on, nor had it rained in the previous 24 hours.  This is early enough in the year, that there has been no manure spread in the fields.  I could finally, physically GET to the water – snowbanks are down to 18″ or less.  And lastly – the Cuddy wasn’t frozen over, (which it has been for months at some sites).  And it just looked happy.  Not swollen with floodwater, nor dried up like last fall.  The water is clear and cold (31.7 degrees).  Now we’ll just wait and see how safe it is.

Mr Mlynarchek, who owns the farm that the Cuddy crosses just before it goes under the Patterson bridge, stopped and chatted with me as I was testing at 1st St.  We had a nice talk – he’s as concerned as I am about the woody debris still laying along the Tawsley/Holbrook Drain.  He politely challenged me to sample some other creeks in the area, to get a feel for what levels of e-coli those might be carrying; and he’s right.  I’ll be adding a few outside samples on my next collection.

I will add the results of the water tests to this post on Tuesday April 1st.  (An unfortunate date, but I assure you there will be no joking – e-coli just isn’t funny).


Added Monday Mar 31st: I just did a preliminary look at my samples; and of the 15 plates in the incubator – only 1 presently is showing e-coli, and it would indicate a level of 100 CFUs (“Colony Forming Units”) per 100 ml.  A nice safe level, and about 10 times lower than the “average” count I got last year.   I’ll do a final read tomorrow, in case I have any “late-blooming” colonies; but I think it’s safe to assume that the Cuddy is a healthy little creek right now.  YAY!!!!!!


Tuesday’s Final  E-coli Count:  All samples taken from the upstream side of culverts, “river center”.

Patterson: 0

Tawsley: 0

Cuddy @ 1st St: 0

Timber Creek Cuddy/north: 0

Timber Creek Boot Lake/south: 100 cfu/100ml

M-179: 0

4th St North: 0

4th St South: 0

WOOHOO!!  Now THAT’S what we like to see!!!!!!!!



Google Earth Is Fun!

How I spend my days:  peering at my computer screen, looking at the Cuddy and its watershed via Google Earth.  It’s downright amazing what I can see – the newest image of G.E. shows our dear friend-of-the-Cuddy Rich, paddling his canoe in the channel.  G.E. also lets me measure: Rich was 157′ feet east of the  Patterson Culverts and 14′ from his seawall.


I can also save a “screenshot” of something I’m looking at, like this:

Gravel pit

This is the sand/gravel pit on the SE corner of 4th St and M-179.  I can zoom in a LOT closer than this – but this shows 2 important things: the lack of erosion coming from the sand/gravel pit; AND the agricultural runoff occurring in the field immediately east of it.  That black “splash” is probably fertilizer-laden topsoil.  “Plowed fields No buffer” is my note to myself on this map, that these fields are planted legally, but frighteningly-close to this branch of the Cuddy Drain, shown by the red line.  In many places, the fields are planted within 10′ of the Drain, with no vegetation buffer to prevent a rainstorm from washing e-coli-laden manure into the water.

Something else I can measure:


This image is liquid manure that was spread on snow back in 2010.  (While it was in the “neighborhood” – it was NOT done within the Cuddy Watershed – and farmers DO need to get rid of that from time to time).  My point in showing this, is that I was able to clearly measure just how far that manure was thrown: a maximum of 40′!!!  So *if* a farmer’s employee takes a tractor and the “honey wagon” out to fertilize a field, and that driver can’t judge distances very well and gets closer to the edge of the field than 30′ …. pure, unadulterated cow-poo can be launched into the Cuddy Drain.  And within an hour – it will pass right under Rich’s canoe.

Spring is here – OK, at least the official date is here.  We need Cuddy Friends to watch for manure-spreading, particularly south of M-179 and west of 4th St.  We need to gently encourage our farming neighbors to be careful when they spread.  And any manure, either liquid or solids, MUST be tilled into the earth within 24 hours of spreading: those are the DEQs rules.  Farms are NOT supposed to spread over snow; but in the case shown above, it was nowhere near water or ag drains; so in my opinion, this was “responsible management practices” being shown.

But we sure don’t want to see that in our watershed right now.

Drainage Board Meeting Wednesday March 19th

Thank you, Mark Englerth, for letting me know there’s a meeting of the Cuddy Intercounty Drain Drainage Board at 10 AM at the Yankee Spring Township Hall.

This meeting developed the scope of the work for the drain.  Dan Fredricks (Land & Resource Engineering) discussed some issues that had come up, which included:

A dredging request for a section of the Cuddy from 4th St (north) to M-179;  since this is above a stable stretch of drain, there were some concerns regarding keeping everything stable

Making sure there’s no sand infiltration from the mine at 4th and M-179;  Dan, Aaron, and Brady had walked this section and saw no obvious erosion, but will check again

How to handle adding the Island Dr Channel to the project; there were several options mentioned, that would help the residents of this channel gain the benefit of dredging while the equipment is in place

Access, DEQ permits, and Sediment testing: these are all issues that come from dredging – the sediment testing is so the “spoils” (dredged sand/sediment) can be disposed of.

Dan will determine an approximate-sized area that will be needed for spoils disposal.

Residents along the Cuddy will be notified that there will be surveyors doing a Topographical Survey.

I have a copy of a map that outlines project goals along the Cuddy.  I’ll attempt to scan that in sections and post it in another entry, by Friday.


Denise Medemar, Allegan County Drain Commissioner, mentioned “moving the Tawsley”!!  At least part of it – there’s a quarter-mile section of the Tawsley/Holbrook Drain that parallels 1st St immediately adjacent to the (gravel) roadbed.  I’ve pointed out in previous pictures how the roadbed washes into the drain during heavy rains – moving the drain away from the road would be a Godsend!!  And since “relocating drains along highways” is one of the things mentioned in the original petitions to the Drainage Board and is within the power of a Drain Commissioner – this is great news!

The unknown drain pipes that were discovered during the initial walk along the drain will be investigated by the Allegan County Health Department.


The next meeting will probably be in May; one of the goals for that meeting was to settle on the percentages each county will pay towards project costs.