Snapshot: While we're out measuring the extent of the flooding, a team will also be measuring the pollution being washed off the land by that flooding.
Backstory: Southeast Virginia/Hampton Roads is embarking on one of the largest citizen science efforts ever with it's King Tide mapping event. Now, another effort has been added, "Measure the Muck."
This new effort is the brainchild of Dr. Margaret Mulolland of Old Dominion University, who does a lot of work on harmful algal blooms. While most folks here worry about where the water goes when it tops the bank, she wonders what it brings back with it when it recedes. She suspects that these flooding events bring a load of nutrients and bacteria into our rivers and bays, providing the fuel for algal blooms. Controlling this loading would help manage these algal blooms but no one has measured the amount of nutrients and bacteria being washed from the land.
So a group of volunteers will go out on Nov 5 with field kits for collecting water samples around stormwater outfalls that will later be tested (thanks to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District for providing the funding).
Wetlands Watch's interest in this (other than the fact that Dr. Mulholland is our executive director's spouse!) is to explore the co-benefits of nature based solutions to stormwater and flood management. If the areas that flood are also significant sources of pollution, we can better target our efforts and use one dollar to fix two problems.
We've got some volunteers signed up for "Measure the Muck," 28 people so far. As shown above, on a sunny Saturday, Oct. 21, a group of Old Dominion University students together with a bunch of Maury High School students tested the app in preparation for the stormwater pollution measurement citizen science effort.
On the day of the flooding event, the Muck teams were assembled and given sampling equipment. The teams of students fanned out across Norfolk along the Layfayette River watershed to take samples from flooded areas.
While the samples are still being analyzed, early results are showing high levels of pollution. Most of the bacteria samples had concentrations so dense they were beyond the ability of the lab equipment to measure it!