Volunteer water monitors: citizen scientists

Nadia Ramlagan

Volunteer water monitoring is gaining popularity in West Virginia, and could help assess the impact on regional water quality of projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Jenna Dodson, West Virginia Rivers Coalition staff scientist, said a training session being held near Talcott on October 21st can help residents identify erosion and sedimentation changes from pipeline development. She pointed out the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection does not have the bandwidth to regularly collect data for the state’s more than 33,000 miles of rivers and streams, but community water monitoring can fill in gaps.

“The data collected from community monitoring complements the data collected from state agencies to give a more complete picture of river and stream health,” she explained.

Over the summer the EPA identified more than 300 additional streams missed in the state’s latest list of impaired waterways, and is accepting public comments on the inclusion of the streams until October 18th.

Dodson noted water quality data is used in various types of permitting processes for both industrial and municipal discharge.

“For example, a housing development or industry coming in to see if and how those changes are affecting long term water quality trends,” she continued.

She added when community members monitor the same site frequently, they become very familiar with what the typical conditions are, including pH, dissolved oxygen, and presence of bacteria. They are usually the first ones to sound the alarm on environmental and public health issues from a chemical spill or other source of pollution, she said.