The task of monitoring local bodies of water for contamination falls not only to public-health professionals but also to a group of dedicated, well-trained volunteers. In the warmer months, the nonprofit group Save the Sound runs a water-quality monitoring effort called the Citizen Science Program, where volunteers collect water samples to measure potential bacteria contamination at streams, bays, and harbors in Westchester, Long Island, and Western Connecticut.
According to Water Quality Program Manager Peter Linderoth, “They first need to undergo training in sampling for enterococcus, a fecal-indicator bacteria present in contaminated water bodies. We let them know where it comes from, how it makes people sick, and other things.”
Volunteers then learn a standard operating procedure for collecting the samples, helping to preserve data integrity by ensuring that everyone is taking the water in the same way. Linderoth says that volunteers then gain a sense of ownership over the project by being assigned one of the stations that the organization monitors–taking samples and filling out a chain-of-custody form once a week. They are encouraged to take note of other things they observe during sample collection–such as the presence of geese, deer, human activity, or strange smells and colors–and write them on the form. The samples are then transported to the project lab in Mamaroneck to be tested and analyzed for bacteria.
The sampling program began in 2013 and has been expanding its reach ever since. As more sites are added to be monitored, more volunteers have joined the cause.
Get Started: Contact Peter Linderoth at 914.381.3140 for more information. There are no prerequisites, but volunteers should expect to go through some training and spend a minimum of a few hours per week collecting samples in the warmer months.
Similar Ops: Consider opportunities with Riverkeeper, based in Ossining, or some of the many local organizations affiliated with the Federated Conservationists of Westchester County.