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Good News for the Rivergoers

There are three main spring term past-times at Deerfield: watching lacrosse, wearing pastel clothing, and, of course, swimming in the River.

This past year, as the lower fields were under repair after the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene in summer 2011, the Deerfield River was simultaneously investigated.

The issue at hand was not that the river water was contaminated with storm runoff, although to be safe it has been recommended that students not drink the water, but that the river bottom was covered in dangerous debris such as boulders and tree trunks.

This problematic debris is still present, although much less so, for around 300 billion gallons of fresh water have washed through the river since September 1, 2011, according to Environmental Management Coordinator David Purington.

Mr. Purington explained that while the greater part of the clean-up may have flown under students’ radars, “the vast majority of hurricane response…observed here and around the northeast was in the category of cleanup—removing mud from places where mud was inconvenient, removing debris from places where debris was inconvenient or unsightly, and reconstructing man-made features that were in the path of the fury.”

However, although the water may be relatively clean, Mr. Purington made it clear that “the safety issues left behind by the flooding were mostly about whether and how the river bottom changed shape and whether there are submerged trees and branches for swimmers to get snagged on.” He emphasized that the shape of the swimming holes may have changed.

Safety precautions are currently being taken on this subject, and Town Select Board member Caroline Ness said it has been “arranged with the emergency dive team (fire and police members) to do a training dive in Deerfield River in the area where our students swim.”

Jamie Haddad ’12, took a dip in the river after softball practice in early April. Although she noticed that “the water seemed to be significantly lower because of the amount of debris on the bottom, and it was easy to wade out closer to the middle, it still looked pretty much the same.”

We must not despair however, for the odds seem to be in our favor, and just as the majority of the lower athletic fields, the river will be open for student enjoyment this spring thanks to the hard work of the dedicated grounds crew and the town of Deerfield.

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