Volunteer to Monitor Bacteria Levels In Your Local Waterways!

Polluted runoff after a storm often degrades local water quality and public health, especially in fresh water recreational areas. It's polluted runoff that causes the "no swimming" health advisories for 48 hours after it rains, often because of bacteria from animal waste, trash, and other pollutants washing into nearby waters.

In partnership with several Maryland colleges—including Harford Community College, Hood College, and Howard Community College—the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is developing a simple water bacteria testing program in targeted areas for this summer, and we are still in need of volunteers in Harford and Howard Counties. Water samples collected throughout the summer from up to six identified locations in each of three counties—Frederick, Harford, and Howard—will be tested at college laboratories for enterococcus bacteria using a simple EPA protocol.

The focus of this project is "wet weather" samples taken after rain storms of a half inch or more. Samples are planned at several intervals after a storm. Two dry samples a month also will be taken as a baseline. Because storms can't be predicted we can't say exactly how many samples will be taken, but we estimate a total could be as high as eight samples per month. Sampling is simple: dipping a plastic bottle in water at the designated site. Bottles must be taken directly to the laboratory at the partner college. Volunteers will coordinate with lab staff. Equipment and training will be provided.

The project is meant to educate the public about the impact of stormwater on water quality, especially in fresh water recreational areas. Unfortunately, local health departments and the state do not routinely take wet weather samples in many locations. Please contact Tom Zolper, tzolper@cbf.org or 443-482-2066, for more information or if you are interested in volunteering. We are hoping to have our volunteer group recruited no later than May 15, 2015, so please get in touch with us soon if you are interested!

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