Contoocook River Water-foul & A Different Kind of Dowsing

An Important Discovery

Newspaper clipping highlighting the student research that led to the discovery of a broken sewer pipe in Peterborough.

Front page story in a local newspaper article highlighting Marian Baker and her student’s “water-foul” discovery in the Contoocook River. Click the image to see a larger version.

At our annual meeting in October 1985, one of our presenters was staff member Marian Baker. She recounted the years when she used the Contoocook River as a teaching site for Conant, ConVal, and Hillsborough-Deering high school students up and down the river. Most memorable was the time that students testing for E. coli bacteria led to front-page coverage by the local press.

ConVal students had actually discovered what appeared to be a pollution hot spot in the river in Peterborough. State authorities were contacted to corroborate their findings, and further testing showed that the students’ discovery was very real. It seems that back when the sewerage system for Peterborough was constructed, there was a failure to complete a hookup for the famed Peterborough Diner! Need I say more?

Our Pit Runneth Over…

Another mucky tale happened in the summer of 1986 when the region was experiencing a building boom. We teamed up with the Soil Conservation Service, now called the Natural Resources Conservation Service, to conduct a workshop called “Soils and Septic Systems,” with the goal of instructing the 80 participants on interpreting a particular soil’s characteristics and suitability, or lack thereof, for the construction of leach fields.

To get ready for the day, Bud Adams volunteered to use his backhoe to dig a demonstration soil test pit, so that we could measure soil permeability and see the effects of a seasonally fluctuating groundwater table. It seemed like a great idea, but none of us knew the details about the elaborate underground pipe system that had been constructed for Eleanor Briggs‘ grandparents [the original owners of what is now the Harris Center building and grounds]. The system brought water all the way from Jack’s Pond on the flank of Mount Skatutakee down to several houses, including what is now the Harris Center — back then complete with formal fountains and a swimming pool.

Bud’s backhoe brought all this history to light. To quote the account in the Hearsay, “Our pit runneth over!”

– Meade Cadot