Monday, July 18, 2016

Spectrophotometrics, Water Pollution & Citizen-Scientists

Imagine that seven or eight times a day, different volunteer citizen-scientists around Rochester, MI sampled the waters of Paint Creek, a tributary of the Clinton River, for contaminants.

Or 15 times a day in the Minnow Pond Drain at Farmington Hills, leading to River Rouge.

Or twice a day at the Huron Swamp in White Lake Township, headwaters of the Huron River.

Suppose they used spectrophotometrics available through their smartphones to instantly transmit their findings to a repository set up to collect and collate such data throughout the region.  

Paint Creek

This may be feasible by means of citizen-scientists equipped with smartphones adapted as spectrophotometers, a process created by Dr. Andrew Torelli and his colleagues at Bowling Green State University. Torelli explains (excerpts):

We have been developing simple tools to facilitate education and participation in environmental stewardship initiatives by students and members of the broader public.

Throughout the world, there is growing interest for engaging students and members of the public to participate in environmental water quality testing, however there are challenges in providing non-experts with the means to collect, share and interpret reliable scientific data.

...[W]e have developed software and device technologies that allow users to perform spectrophotometric measurements with color-based water quality test kits using their smartphones 7.

Geo-tagged data collected in the field can be easily shared …

You can read more about this on the website for our project we call GeoGraph.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Water Pollution Reduction Credits

The type of non-point source water pollution reduction project described below may be useful in the Saginaw River watershed, the Black River watershed (upstream of Port Huron and the St. Clair River) and smaller tributaries to Lake St. Clair, such as the Clinton River, Thames River and Belle River.

The Great Lakes Commission* has announced plans to implement water quality trading as a means of reducing the phosphorus overload in western Lake Erie. The principals are the states of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan and the Province of Ontario. Agricultural, environmental and business interests are participating, as well.

The plan targets farms, these days the greatest source by far of waterborne phosphorus. The concept is to permit those most successful in reducing phosphorus running off their fields to sell credits to those less successful, creating competition to be sellers of credits, rather than buyers. Presumably, sanctions more costly than the credits will be imposed on the worst polluters.

Planners hope for field trials next year. (This observer’s view: Don’t hold your breath.)

Called the “Erie P Market,” the project depends on being able to measure reductions in nutrient pollution. Trading would be limited to a portion of such reductions. Funding for the project is being provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“The two-year project also aims to develop a common approach for who can trade with whom, and how, where and when trading can occur, as well as examine ways to verify that conservation practices are working to improve water quality.”


* “The Great Lakes Commission is a United States interstate agency established in 1955 through the Great Lakes Compact, in order to ‘promote the orderly, integrated and comprehensive development, use and conservation of the water resources of the Great Lakes Basin,’ which includes the Saint Lawrence River. The commission provides policy development, coordination, and advocacy on issues of regional concern, as well as communication and research services.”

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Artificial Fish Habitat in Industrialized River Segment

Where natural fish habitat has been lost in an industrialized portion of a river, like River Rouge in Detroit or the Maumee in Toledo, some remarkable innovations now enable fish to shelter and feed while moving between natural habitat upriver and downstream.

One of new designs - artificial fish habitat

Four prototypes that attract fish in various stages of development are being tested. The devices are durable, cost efficient and function within changing water levels. One person can manage them. Nearly 500 devices have been installed thus far. Initial trials have been positive.

Two organizations, Cuyahoga River Restoration and Environmental Design Group, are behind the project.

Jane Goodman, Executive Director of Cuyahoga River Restoration said, "The designs are meant to collect floating organic debris to provide shade, food, and refuge from predators for small fish, but can also mimic natural habitat features like root filaments and aquatic plants to provide safe haven in a challenging environment.”

" ‘Adding to the normal designer angst of correct calculations, appropriate safety factors and the expectation this unusual concept would work, we were asked to design something totally unique that had no close model for success or failure,’ mentioned Matt Montecalvo, Principal of Environmental Services at Environmental Design Group.”

(The “watch the video” link shows 21 seconds of little fish within one of the devices.)