Greetings from Park Place!
While most of us turn on a faucet to get water to water our gardens, a few of us rely on water from open sources; like streams or rivers. But how do you know that the water is safe?
Tech GYRLS investigated the stream that runs thru Sugar Hollow by running a series of chemical and biological water tests to determine the health of the stream.
The first thing they encountered was Southwest Virginia’s # 1 pollutant was prevalent in the stream. SILT – fine particles of soil clouded the stream, creating difficulty for any macro or microorganisms that have gills or lungs. It’s hard to breathe if you have dirt in your “air”. Siltation of the stream is a common occurrence especially after a heavy rain.
Next, the GYRLS ran tests on pH, Dissolved Oxygen, Nitrates, Phosphates, and Temperature learning the meaning of each of the different tests. They discovered that both nitrates and phosphates were present in the stream; most likely coming from run off from farm that use fertilizers up stream.
Virginia SOS – Save Our Streams –monitors the water quality of Virginia’s streams and educates the public about the importance of clean water. Using a special net and protective gloves the Tech GYRLS captured and counted the macro invertebrates that live in the stream paying special attention to the TYPE of animals they found. Many of the creatures found in streams can “tolerate impairment” or be able to live in polluted waters. What we looked for were animals that were “intolerant of impairment” such as mayflies, and stoneflies.
Searching thru the stream litter can prove exciting as the first creature to be identified are the big ones; such as crayfish. We found 2 in our sample. The next creatures that gets a lot of attention are the worms because they’re long and usually red. We found 5. Snails are easy to count because they are numerous and easy to pick up, but there are two different types of snails with different abilities to tolerate pollution. If you hold a snail with the pointed end facing up it will open either to the left or to the right. Those that face right are called “gilled snails” while those that face left are called “lunged snails”. Gilled snails tend to be intolerant of impairment; a good sign as we found 13 in our sample.
When we found the solo mayfly we all rejoiced knowing that for now, the stream was in pretty good health. This is important to this group because many of the girls not only use the water to help their Park Place trees grow but also swim in it during hot summer camp days.
While overall, the quantity of animals found in the stream was low, we gave the stream a passing grade on overall health. The GYRLS will test other streams in the area so they can learn to compare them and help gather data that can be reported to the VA SOS.
Yet another great day with Tech GYRLS!