Sampling

Test. Share. Protect. World Water Monitoring Day 2012!

World Water Monitoring DayBy Trey Cody

Did you ever wonder how information is gathered on the condition of our streams, lakes, estuaries, and coastal waters?  Or how we know whether it is safe to use these waters for drinking or recreational activities like fishing, swimming, and boating?

September 18th is your day to not only ask these questions, but to get out and be involved in the data collection yourself… because September 18th is World Water Monitoring Day!

You don’t have to consider yourself a scientist to help keep tabs on the health of your local watershed.  As part of World Water Monitoring Day, you can do your own monitoring tests and enter your results into an international database.  Simple monitoring kits are available for purchase by anyone interested in participating.

The health of our water bodies is important more than just one day per year, which is why the World Water Monitoring Day Challenge runs annually from March 22nd (the United Nations’ World Water Day) until December 31st. Events are held, and tests can be conducted and results submitted at any time. The purpose of the challenge is to encourage people everywhere to TEST the quality of their waterways, SHARE their findings, and PROTECT our most precious resource.

Watch this video for background on the event and to learn how to test for the four indicators (Turbidity, pH, Temperature, and Dissolved Oxygen) of the World Water Monitoring Day Challenge.  By just testing these four parameters – and it’s easy to do – we can learn a lot about the health of our waterways.

There are lots of materials out there to help you learn more about the importance of water monitoring. EPA’s Monitoring and Assessing Water Quality page and other outreach materials can help get people excited about water quality.

So get out and assess your waters!  Tell us about your water monitoring experiences and what you found in your data collection.

About the Author: Trey Cody has been an intern with EPA’s Water Protection Division since graduation from high school in 2010. He is currently attending the Pennsylvania State University.

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.  Throughout the year, EPA will be highlighting different aspects of the history and successes of the Clean Water Act in reducing pollution in the past 40 years.  The month of September will focus on Action and Education.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Beach Awaits

By Trey Cody

Enjoying a day at the beach

When thinking of a beach threat, I typically think of jellyfish.  Once on a family beach vacation, my sister was stung by a jellyfish, and the memory has stuck with me since.  Some people on the other hand may think of crabs or sharks when asked about dangerous things at the beach.

But potentially the most harmful threat at the beach is one we cannot see: bacteria.  A majority of beach closings and advisories issued last year were due to elevated bacteria levels in the water.  An unusually elevated bacteria level in beach water is typically the result of uncontrolled human or animal waste. In wet weather events, stormwater runoff pollutes beach water by bringing bacteria along the way as it runs off through streets and through sewers. To protect the health of beachgoers, monitoring is conducted at many beaches, and advisories are posted to alert the public when it isn’t safe to swim because of high bacteria.

The good news is that for the seventh consecutive year, in 2011, the nation’s coastal and Great Lakes beaches were open and safe for swimming 95 percent of the time during the swimming season.

Beach water quality is a priority here at EPA. We work with state and local partners to control potential sources of pollution to the beaches.  For example, we help communities to build and properly operate sewage treatment plants, and implement a national storm water program and promote green infrastructure to reduce runoff and minimize sewer overflows.  On our Region III Beaches page, you can find out information on beach sampling data, beach closings and advisories, beach water quality standards, and much more!

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) uses data and information from EPA and the States to publish an annual report on the quality of beach water in the U.S.  It rates popular beaches and awards the ones with exceptionally low violation rates and strong testing and safety practices. Three of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s very own beaches have been particularly vigilant about minimizing the threats from bacteria.  Delaware’s Dewey and Rehoboth beaches and Maryland’s Ocean City at Beach 6 all received a 5-star rating from the NRDC.

At these beaches and many others in Region 3, national standards were not only met, but exceeded, making them some of the cleanest beaches in the country. So before the summer slips away, grab your swim suit, towel and sunscreen and head down to your favorite stretch of shoreline!  Share stories of your time at the beach this summer in our comments section, and contribute your photos to EPA’s State of the Environment Photo Project.

About the Author: Trey Cody has been an intern with EPA’s Water Protection Division since graduation from high school in 2010. He is currently attending the Pennsylvania State University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Underwater Taking Samples with EPA Divers

by Sean Sheldrake, EPA Region 10 Dive Team and Alan Humphrey, EPA-Environmental Response Team (ERT)

In our last segment, I had just rehearsed with the diver their underwater “dance” of careful movements to safely get the data we need to support our Willamette River cleanup. Now with the diver descending into the murky depths, they are focusing on that rehearsal. The diver will next install the sampling devices and talk to me (the dive supervisor) shipboard the entire time via a communications cable between the boat and the diver—and we will continue to stick with the choreographed maneuvers we have rehearsed. Each movement is calculated. If there is any increase in her/his breathing rate that we can’t control by talking through the causes, the dive will be called off immediately. Once the diver has placed the devices, I’ll ask her/him to back away –downcurrent– carefully from the instrumentation before they come up. “Have you backed off the sampler about 3 feet? Great, ok, let’s start bringing you up nice and slow. We don’t want any of your gear to catch on that sampling equipment.” While we’re doing this, we’re looking for debris, vessel traffic, and anything else that might concern the diver on the surface.

EPA Diver with Carp (?) Eggs, Williamette Cove, Portland Harbor, OR

“Diver—um, surface would like to inform you that we have a large armchair inbound.”

“Surface, an armchair?”

“Diver– that’s correct—must have fallen off someone’s dock—we’ll direct you around it.”

Sometimes dancing in polluted water takes various forms.

Once the diver is back on the surface they undergo at least an extensive clean water rinse to ensure that all bottom sediments they may have picked up on their gear is rinsed back into the River, and not brought onto the boat deck to get mixed up in someone’s lunch. Soaps may be used and collected if needed, such as on a diver covered with oil—luckily those were not necessary today.

EPA DiverOnce decontamination is completed, the diver is brought back into the clean zone in the cabin for some water and light food. “One more sample completed, 2 dozen down, 2 dozen to go,” I say. Good science done safely, one sample at a time. The project managers at EPA and ODEQ will later make multimillion dollar cleanup decisions with that data, impacting a host of Willamette River users—a small “sampling” of what EPA divers do.

Read more about the latest in EPA scientific diving at www.facebook.com/EPADivers.

EPA video: Sean Sheldrake talks about his job.

About the authors: Sean Sheldrake and Alan Humphrey both serve on the EPA diving safety board, responsible for setting EPA diving policy requirements. In addition, they both work to share contaminated water diving expertise with first responders and others.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.