In an ongoing effort to combat invasive species in the Quinnipiac River and Hanover Pond in Meriden, the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association partnered with Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford for a cleanup day earlier this week.
Led by Lyman Hall’s agricultural science director and wildlife biology teacher, Emily Picard, students from the school meet on Wednesday mornings to assist in the removal of European water chestnut plants. The volunteers are also working to map out the plant’s presence, as well as document its removal.
Known as the Natural Resource Committee, the group applied for and was awarded a grant for the removal of the plants from Hanover Pond in partnership with the watershed association. Last summer NRC hosted events, following pandemic guidelines, to remove the plants. The project was recognized at a 2021 state Board of Education meeting.
According to QRWA’s administrative assistant, Elisabeth James, the water chestnut plant “is an invasive aquatic plant that will ruin Hanover pond recreation opportunities and flip ecology on its tail if left unchecked.”
An invasive species is defined by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as non-native to the ecosystem they are in and can cause damage and/or displace native species. The water chestnut arrived in the state in 1999, according to the DEEP’s guide to invasive aquatic plants. The plant spreads quickly and is considered a serious threat to lakes, ponds, and rivers.
Volunteers under Picard’s lead were mostly agricultural science students, who learned about food science, animal agriculture and more during the school year.
Students assisted by taking the plant, already placed in a trash bag by QRWA paddlers, and disposing of it. All volunteers were required to wear gloves, as the plant contains sharp seed pods.
QRWA’s Vice President Ginny Chirsky used Facebook to attract volunteers beyond the Lyman Hall group.
“We have another water chestnut pull for tomorrow and would be grateful for a few more ground crew folks (perhaps young adults) to help…” Chirsky posted, alongside photos of water chestnut plants that had been removed and plants still in the pond.
James also said that in September the group will be resuming its semi annual river cleanup event, which typically takes on 50 to 75 volunteers.
The event is organized and hosted by James and QRWA President David James, her father. In the past, QRWA has also sponsored other cleanup projects, as well as guest speakers, canoe races, and the education of others interested in promoting environmental protection.
Howard Weissberg, Meriden’s director of public works, said the city has been able to make headway in efforts to remove invasive species from bodies of water in the city through the cleanup and support efforts of groups like QRWA.
“QRWA does an amazing amount of environmental work behind the scenes,” Weissberg said.
Reporter Michael Gagne
contributed to this report.