Wednesday - December 1, 1999
Herb Dennison, the Island plumber, visited with the Captain to fix the water valve to the heated toilet and outdoor shower. The valve did not have to be replaced but the innards did. The heated toilet in the men's locker room is now operational.
Mr. Dennison inspected the well and suggested that sediment from previous floods may have raised the bottom of the well close to the pump such that it kicked up turbulence which was the reason for the high turbidity. High turbidity (lots of particulate matter in the water such that light will not shine through) renders the UV system less effective at killing bacteria and currently causes the charcoal filters to be replaced every 5-6 days.
Friday - December 3, 1999
Encountered two WSSC employees servicing the sewage vent across from the Island. There is an odor filter in it now. Mr. Holland and assistant James were asked if they had any idea about whether or not the odor from the pipe could have any connection with the same odor coming out of the Island water, and did not. They said they would report our conversation to their supervisor.
Saturday - December 4, 1999
Went across to investigate a civilian who was inspecting the sewage pipe vent . John Trypus, senior geologist for Metcalf & Eddy (301-317-9600), the environmental subcontractor charged with coming up with a solution to the odor problem, was very intrigued with the Island water problem, stated that he was an expert in water aquifer problems, and was unfamiliar with any such situation and had no idea what the causes could be. He stated that it would be highly unlikely they could be connected to the sewage pipe, but was interested in being kept informed. He was glad to have people living near the vent that would volunteer to keep him informed of the incidence and timing of odor surges. They are experimenting with a new technology for a solution and was excited we had not noticed much odor during the last couple of weeks as they had installed the new filters three weeks ago.
Observed a chicken at the towpath ferry landing. Upon investigation, it appeared the chicken had been tied up there in a ribbon harness (with bells) but had pecked free. A small pile of corn had been left nearby. I returned to the Island to see if any Members had left it there, but they had not. Returning to the towpath with Barbara Neal, Sarah Davis and daughter Katy, we observed several big dogs approaching. Although we applied ourselves to get max speed from the ferry, the dogs got there first, driving the chicken into the river where it floundered about before making it back to shore where it obtained purchase on one of the roots sticking out near the water level. Barbara borrowed a glove and crawled out along the roots near the bank to try to pluck the chicken from the cold river, and succeeded only after having to actually wade into the cold (very cold) water. The chicken was returned to the Island where it was held, dried, and warmed... and spent the night in the caretakers quarters.
Monday - December 6, 1999
The chicken, named Oscar, was taken to the Poplar Springs Animal sanctuary (301-428-8128) near the end of River Road in the Poolesville area. Terry and Dave rent 400 acres where they provide refuge to abandoned and abused farm animals. Terry is a former vet tech at the zoo. They promised Oscar a safe and good home despite having no more room for chickens (and especially roosters). They depend upon volunteers and donations, and the Club should consider some small appreciation.
Wednesday - December 8, 1999
Frank Easterday and "Mutt" Springer of Easterday Well and Drilling visited the Island to see about the possibility of removing flood sediment from the bottom of the Island well. The Captain and the Club plumber, Herb Dennison had observed that the well had been flooded multiple times and that the excessive turbidity in the water could be caused by this, and has been looking for a contractor who might be able to flush the flood sediment from the well bottom.
Sunday - December 12, 1999
Phyl left early AM to do Xmas shopping, and since the temp was in the low 40's and the Caretaker was still here for security, she left the ferry tied but not locked, to make it easy for the expected substitute caretakers. It is noteworthy that the towpath was crowded none the less and that before the substitutes arrived two different families who were not Members used the ferry illegally to come across to the Island for unauthorized visits. Nothing was said to them because I was not aware they were not early substitutes until they returned to the towpath. Henceforth the ferry will always be locked.
Monday - December 13, 1999
Today spoke to Harry Sandberg of Montgomery County Well and Septic (240-777-6300) to whom the Island's water problem was referred by Maryland Water, the company that had tested our water and had faxed him the results because they had no idea what the problem was. His suggestion is that the problem profile fits a situation in which there is a certain type of "iron bacteria" in the water. Our iron content is high enough for this to happen and the typical smell is similar to hydrogen sulfide, which is our situation. Because all bacteria testing looks only for coliform bacteria as a marker or indicator this would not show up in standard tests. This bacteria is not pathogenic. The best way to make certain is to pull the drop pipe in the well to see if it has an opaque white slime on it and the pump. Our UV system may kill the bacteria but not the bacteria by-products causing the odor. Suggested solutions are to chlorinate the water to kill the bacteria and to use charcoal filters to eliminate the odor. Mitigating against this probable explanation is the fact that two attempts to chlorinate the system have not eliminated the problem. Mr. Sandberg pointed out that "hand dug" wells are very vulnerable to such problems. However, the while the odor problem has not been eliminated entirely, it has greatly diminished and is mostly controlled by the charcoal filters we use. The water is OK for bathing and washing clothes, but not for drinking until we can be sure we understand exactly what the problem is.
Received a call from Frank Easterday as a follow up to his 8 December visit. He has now talked to Herb Dennison who is the plumber who installed the current water pump and pipe system in the well some years ago. The holes in the bottom of the drop pipe were drilled out at 1 1/2 inches diameter and no gravel was poured to act as a sediment filter, which is a major reason for the turbidity problem. Further, he noted that the current installation is illegal and not certifiable by the State, although he reassured me that this information would be kept confidential by his company. He knows Harry Sandberg of the county authority very well, so I asked him about what would likely happen if they found out. He stated that Sandberg would never shut down the Island, especially because we had certified test results that there was no coliform bacteria in the water, and that the worst case would be that we would be forced to provide and install bottled drinking water and install signs on all faucets stating that the water was not potable. Because our well is a "hand dug" well seldom seen these days, he points out that any solution short of reconstruction would be temporary and not worth the cost. He will submit a proposal for reconstructing the well to bring it into compliance with code and to seal it off and protect it from further flood contamination. While ordinarily this could be done quickly and easily, our location and the difficulty of bringing heavy equipment would add to the labour cost. I explained the current dues structure and thus Club budget limitations and suggested that while at some point in the future the Club would probably wish to proceed, the fact that the water problem seemed to be diminishing meant it might not be considered as a near term priority, rather as something desirable but not necessarily necessary. He said he understood completely as he worked with many small organizations across the county.
Tuesday - December 14, 1999
Received a call from Vicky Grimes of Water Doctor, the company that tested the Island water and is interested in the problem because they have never seen anything like it. When Sandberg's "iron bacteria" proposal was mentioned, she stated that it was certainly not the problem, that she was very familiar with the problem and had in fact eliminated that possibility during her inspection, and listed for me several specific tell tale signs of this problem that had not been present during her inspection. She suggested that I call Sandberg and repeat these facts as he was certainly the most knowledgeable person around and that while the water may be OK, one can not know for certain until one knows what the problem actually is or was, and presently it is still a mystery. Of course I will not call Sandberg again, as we do not wish to call to the attention of the county authorities that we have an illegal and uncertifiable well.
Wednesday - December 15, 1999
Surprised this morning to see the river at 4.54 ft. and rising. This is noteworthy for the log as it may be the first time in over a year and a half that we have had to step down from the ferry to the Island dock.
Sunday - December 26, 1999
During a canoeing incident the youngest of the Thorne family fell into the very cold river and had to be evacuated from the Island to be dried and warmed.