The Health of Heathcote Brook

June 5th, 2018

StreamWatch may be growing beyond its former boundaries of the Stony Brook-Millstone watershed, but we are still intently focused on our home turf.

Heathcote Brook is one of the smallest subwatersheds in the Millstone basin. Its StreamWatch monitoring site, HB3, is aptly placed at the mouth of the Heathcote Brook, just before its torrent rushes in to meet the Millstone River downstream of the Lake Carnegie dam in Kingston. With this site, monitored monthly by veteran StreamWatch volunteer Ted Chase since 2005, we can assess this small subwatershed as a whole.

We use benthic macroinvertebrate community distribution and diversity as an indicator for general stream health. Macroinvertebrate studies performed by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection staff consistently demonstrate impaired water quality, which may be attributed to excessive inputs of nitrate and phosphate from adjacent neighborhoods and commercial zones along the Route 1 corridor.

Other water quality parameters remain unaffected by the surrounding development. For example, the concentration of dissolved oxygen never fell below 5 milligrams per liter during StreamWatch sampling events since 2011. This is a good sign – New Jersey state standard states that high quality streams should never have dissolved oxygen drop below 4 milligrams per liter. For the most part, Heathcote Brook water quality scores lie squarely between fair and good.

Dropping the overall score below the midpoint, however, is Heathcote Brook’s history with bacterial pollution. For three years straight, E. coli levels have consistently exceeded state standards many times over. Waste from unmanageable geese and deer populations wash into the brook, while high nutrient levels also flow off the land, providing fuel for bacteria to multiply.

How do we fix Heathcote Brook? Our River-Friendly program can help by providing you the information and resources you need to reduce your impact on the stream. Become a River-Friendly resident and join forces with your neighbors to eliminate fertilizer use, pick up after your animals, and maintain lush riparian buffers along your waterways. Visit our website to complete the free, five-minute River-Friendly survey. Collectively, we can improve the water quality here in Heathcote Brook – and beyond.


Thanks to Ted Chase for monitoring Heathcote Brook. The StreamWatch program is funded by Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc, Colgate Palmolive Co., and the New Jersey Water Supply Authority.

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