Volunteer as a summer water quality monitor

Courtesy photo
Stream Team volunteers taking water quality samples.

Rethink Runoff’s Stream Team is seeking volunteers to participate in its annual citizen science water quality monitoring project. Each summer the Stream Team collects samples at sites across Chittenden County to measure phosphorus and chloride levels in urban streams.

Engaging citizens across a nine-municipality area – South Burlington, Shelburne, Burlington, Colchester, Essex, Essex Junction, Milton, Williston and Winooski, Rethink Runoff’s Stream Team implements projects to reduce nonpoint source pollution and stormwater volume at the local level.

Volunteers in the program collect samples from their designated sites and deliver them to the Williston USDA office Tuesday mornings. Training will be June 11 from 8 to 10 a.m. Sample dates are June 25, July 9, 23 and Aug. 6 and 20. All volunteers receive a t-shirt and an invitation to the annual volunteer appreciation gathering.

The Stream Team has consistently detected high levels of phosphorus in most urban streams. “Phosphorus is a naturally-occurring nutrient which, in balance, plays an important role in local ecosystems,” said Stream Team Coordinator, Kristen Balschunat. “In excess, however, it can disrupt the nutrient cycle and cause algae blooms in lakes that lead to beach closures.”

Balschunat noted that urban environments with hard surfaces like roofs, driveways and roads act as a “highway” for phosphorus, transporting it swiftly to nearby bodies of water, rather than allowing it to soak into the soil. Urban residents can “slow the flow” of phosphorus by installing rain barrels, building rain gardens, refraining from fertilizing their lawns and always picking up their pet’s waste.

The Stream Team also has detected high levels of chloride in Chittenden County streams. Elevated amounts of sodium chloride are largely due to road salt application during the winter. Excessive chloride reduces fish spawning, encourages establishment of invasive species and harms sensitive species like brook trout. Individuals can try to reduce their use of road salt on driveways and walkways in the winter.

Rethink Runoff is a multi-year campaign managed by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and run by the Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District.

To volunteer, contact Balschunat by May 31, kristen@winooskinrcd.org or 802-288-8155 x 104.

For more information visit: www.rethinkrunoff.org

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