Sunday, July 15, 2001

Volunteers make getting river samples possible

Scientists can test many sites

By Chris Mayhew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Volunteers for the Kentucky Division of Water's Watershed Watch program fanned out to collect samples from more than 500 sites on the state's rivers and streams Saturday morning.

        When the program started in 1997, Marc Hult of Covington, a hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey and director of the Licking River Watershed Watch, said he and other scientists didn't think a program that used volunteers could provide accurate scientific data.

[photo] Marc Hult, director of the Licking River Watershed Watch, places in the Licking River a “mulit-parameter” water monitor probe, which records temperature and levels of water, and dissolved oxygen and solids.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        Four years later, the Kentucky Watershed Watch program is considered a success because an accurate “snapshot” of the health of Kentucky's rivers and streams is created on a single day, Mr. Hult said.

        “It's something state and federal agencies just don't have the manpower to do,” Mr. Hult said.

        The sampling has created accurate information in places where there was none, Mr. Hult said.

        “In the past, for two thirds of the streams in Kentucky, there has been no data,” he said.

        Shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday, Mr. Hult and two other volunteers were taking water samples and documenting the wildlife living in and around Banklick Creek at Pioneer Park on the Covington/Fort Wright border.

        It was the first of five sites at which Linda Dalton, 53, of Independence, needed to collect samples before noon. Ms. Dalton, a teacher for Cincinnati Public Schools for the last three years, would sample the other four sites by herself.

        At the creek, Ms. Dalton was the first to spot a blue heron flying out of the creekbed.

        “It's good that you see them, but if the water were healthy we would see a lot more,” she said.

        The testing results from creeks like the Banklick have been a step for starting a dialogue on potential cleanup and preservation.

        “Since we have data now, we have something to educate people with. We couldn't do that before,” Ms. Dalton said.

        Mark Bergman, 52, of Independence, has been with Watershed Watch since the spring of 1997.

        Mr. Bergman, a part-time lawyer and professional electrician, was trained to do the sampling at Thomas More College's Ohio River Station.

        “I got involved with this to make a positive contribution to clean water in Northern Kentucky,” Mr. Bergman said.

        Banklick Creek has been labeled a poor-quality stream of special concern by the Division of Water. Reasons for the poor quality classification include pathogens and organic waste from habitat alteration and combined sewer overflow pipes, which send raw sewage into the creek during heavy rains.

        The Watershed Watch's Licking Framework Team and other local organizations plan to bring local residents, businesses and members of Sanitation District 1 together in a new group, Friends of Banklick Creek. The group will focus on getting a grant to help clean up the local creek.

        Other streams with poor quality designations include Allen Fork, Elijahs Creek, Gunpowder Creek and Woolper Creek in Boone County, Brush Creek, Four Mile Creek, Three Mile Creek and parts of the Licking River in Campbell County. One of the streams still classified as high quality in Northern Kentucky is Garrison Creek in Boone County, where the construction of a museum by Answers in Genesis has fueled concern from residents because a sewage treatment plant will be built for the museum.

        Each water sample taken Saturday in Kentucky had to be done between 9 a.m. and noon and be at a laboratory by 3 p.m. The laboratory for the 80 samples taken by volunteers in Licking River Watershed was at Morehead State University. The water samples will be tested for fecal coliform, an indicator of the presence of sewage and animal waste, and will be shared with federal, state and local agencies.

        The test results help the Division of Water determine what rivers and streams are of high quality and which have potential problems. The Division of Water determines if any warnings need to be issued for boaters and swimmers in specific areas based in part on the results.

        Results of Saturday's testing will be posted at the Division of Water's Web site in about three weeks

        More information on the Licking River Watershed Watch can be found at For more information on Friends of Banklick Creek send e-mail to

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