LPOW monitoring water quality

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Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper Kelsey Brasseur conducts a water quality monitoring test using a vertical point water sampler.(Photo by KATIE BOTKIN)

SANDPOINT — There hasn’t been much time for Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper associates to take it easy this summer.

Instead, they’ve been busy gathering water quality data that will provide a baseline for future scientific study. With the summer season providing the ideal time to test water quality issues, nonprofit members and volunteer citizen scientists mobilized to collect data at 15 different locations across Lake Pend Oreille. The work was detailed in the organization’s semi-annual report published this month.

According to Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper executive director Shannon Williamson, the water quality monitoring program depends on consistent effort from local data collectors. With a little training from Waterkeeper officials, participants check regularly on their assigned location along Lake Pend Oreille.

Many use their own kayaks or watercraft to paddle out and conduct simple tests that measure water temperature, bacterial and pH levels and more. According to Williamson, the citizen science makes the effort a true community undertaking.

As data builds over time, Waterkeeper and other organizations can use the data to identify long-term trends and ecologically sound management practices. To ensure the data collection meets all criteria for academic rigor, the organization is undergoing a data quality plan that helps guarantee accuracy.

In addition, Waterkeeper supporters have used the summer to conduct some lake clean-ups. Using donated paddle boards, they routinely collected trash, litter and other undesirable items from the lake. According to the semi-annual report, they also drew out more than 40 pounds of coal spilled from passing train cars — a worrying outcome for Waterkeeper officials.    

The report comes just in time for National Water Quality Month in August. Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper uses the fortuitous combination of typically nice weather and a national awareness drive to host several upcoming events.

Williamson is especially excited for a Watershed Discovery Camp for fifth- and sixth-graders to be held Aug. 11-15. The camp will combine learning and fun over a variety of topics, including wetland ecology, invasive species prevention and more. Along the way, campers will tackle projects like creating a video teaching homeowners how to install their own invasive species-combating bottom barriers. The camp is limited to 14 spots and Williamson expects them to fill up quickly, so register online at www.lakependoreillewaterkeeper.org. The cost is $175, but full and partial scholarships are available.    

“We’re really thrilled to bring this to the community,” Williamson said. “There’s nothing else quite like it that we’re aware of.”

Other upcoming events include an 5-7 p.m. Aug. 21 tap party at MickDuff’s Beer Hall, where MickDuffs officials will debut LPOW’s very own specialty beer. LPOW will also host the Aug. 27 Business After Hours event for the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce. From 5-7 p.m., drop by the LPOW office at 109 North First Ave. for complimentary beer, appetizers and an introduction to local Waterkeeper work.

“It’s been wonderful to have so much community support,” Williamson said.

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