GRASSROOTS PROFILE: Asbury Woods Nature Center Youths Test Water Quality of The Lake Erie Watershed

GRASSROOTS PROFILE: Asbury Woods Nature Center Youths Test Water Quality of The Lake Erie Watershed

by Steve Wasiesky, Environmental Education Coordinator, Asbury Woods Nature Center (with the assistance of Andrea Platz, Explorer Post 808 President)

Since 1998 youth volunteers from Explorer Post 808 and the Asbury Woods Nature Center have been monitoring several of the watersheds within the Pennsylvania portion of the Lake Erie Watershed. They do this as part of Pennsylvania’s Water Snapshot Program, an annual statewide program where 150 volunteer organizations across Pennsylvania choose one or more waterways in their watershed and perform an assessment of the water quality and condition of the riparian zone. These evaluations are conducted in April of each year in conjunction with Earth Day. They monitor Walnut Creek, Mill Creek, 16 Mile Creek, Presque Isle Bay at Dobbin’s Landing, and Lake Erie at Water Works Beach.

Post members learned about (1) their watershed, (2) the parameters they would be monitoring in assessing water quality, and (3) any disruptive pressures. The members held fundraisers, and Post President Andrea Platz applied for and received a $2,000 grant to purchase equipment and chemical test kits to conduct their creek evaluations. Members conducted an evaluation of each watershed, and recorded and interpreted the results. By sending them to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), they are compiled with results from other monitors across the state.

Monitoring was done for dissolved oxygen, nitrates, phosphates, hardness, pH, alkalinity, Coliform bacteria, plus conductivity, temperatures of the air and water, turbidity (water clarity), and sediment odor. A site assessment of the waterway and riparian zone is also part of the monitoring program. This includes noting the plant life, as well as aquatic life and other animal life seen. Bioscopes are utilized to assess the macroinvertebrate population. The site assessment also involves looking at the geology of the area including erosion, stream flow, in- stream cover, disruptive pressures (including human altered landscape), litter, and any point and non-point pollution.

The efforts of Explorer Post 808 to protect Pennsylvania’s aquatic habitats have not gone unnoticed. DEP Officials from Harrisburg accompanied Post members on several of their watershed evaluations. Members attended and presented at the DEP’s Water Monitoring State Conference this past spring. This fall, Post President Andrea Platz and Treasurer Tara Anderson co-presented with Environmental Education Coordinator Steve Wasiesky at the Pennsylvania Alliance for Environmental Education’s state conference. Their hands-on workshop gave the attendees the needed information so they can participate in the Snapshot Water Monitoring Program in their watershed. The more monitors there are, the better we can ensure water quality in Pennsylvania.

Asbury Woods Nature Center and Explorer Post 808 are part of the Pennsylvania Lake Erie Watershed Association (PLEWA), both the adult and junior divisions. PLEWA is part of Pennsylvania’s Keystone Watershed Network (KWN), whose purpose is to network all the water monitors in Pennsylvania. The KWN assists monitors with training, provides technical support, and a source for anyone to access data and test results from water monitoring across the state. KWN also enables monitors to network and interact, as well as get assistance and advice from service providers and other monitors in addressing problems or issues in their respective watersheds.

For more information, please contact Steve Wasiesky at, phone (814)-835-5356.


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.