Harbor Watch shoreline water quality testing program receives grantMay 1, 2013 Harbor Watch, a water quality testing program and part of the Westport based Earthplace Nature Discovery Center recently received a $ 38,165.00 from the state of Connecticut to help expand its shoreline tracking effort to assist in the elimination of bacteria sources identified in 2012. Harbor Watch’s mission is "restoring the biological integrity of Long Island Sound and its watershed" and offers educational programs and internships. The research is done by student volunteers and interns working in a state certified laboratory and under supervision of Harbor Watch staff. Students are formed into research teams and are given the opportunity to conduct all the research themselves on an impaired waterway, compile the data, and present their findings at the annual Water Quality Symposium held at Earthplace. They are encouraged to think critically and test their hypotheses about possible sources of contamination in their assigned river. All data collected are sent to the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Water Management Bureau, various town Conservation and Health Departments, and/or the Environmental Protection Agency. The program is designed to allow student teams to have time working both in the field and in the laboratory to gain a better understanding of the collected data and the land use of their assigned waterway. With a better understanding of the material and scientific processes, Harbor Watch believes that the students will be better prepared for college and post college careers. They will also have an appreciation for working as a team on a complicated environmental problem where each individual may contribute to the final answers. Part of the Environmental Education Student Internship Program is to develop good public speaking skills in a scientific format where the student experiences answering questions from an audience. Examples of Harbor Watch activities:
- Freshwater river systems – Each team collects air temperature, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and a water sample at each site. After all water samples are collected, the team returns to Earthplace and performs membrane filtration tests on each sample for indicator bacteria.
- Storm drain monitoring – Teams collect conductivity readings and a water sample at storm drain discharges. Water samples are then analyzed from indicator bacteria using membrane filtration.
- Trawling – Juvenile benthic marine fisheries study where harbor bottom species are collected under CT DEEP protocols, recorded, and released.
- Oxygen studies of the harbors – Oxygen profiles of Norwalk and Saugatuck Harbor are collected at established site to document hypoxic (low oxygen tensions) events, which may occur during the warm summer months.