Monitoring water quality of local streams

The Washington Post
Sunday, August 12, 2012

Source: The Washington Post

While many of her peers have congressional internships or jobs that have kept them inside air conditioned office buildings, Kelsey Stafford has spent her summer working outdoors examining the environment of the nation’s capital.

As an intern with the National Park Service, Stafford has been monitoring the water quality of 10 streams along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. These streams, which include Spout Run in Arlington, feed into the Potomac River and ultimately affect the area’s drinking water.

Erik Oberg, who supervises Stafford, said the 12-week Student Conservation Association internship “introduces bright and enthusiastic young people to careers with the Park Service, while also empowering them to become the scientists of the future.”

Stafford and her colleague Michael Wills have braved the summer’s record-breaking heat to conduct regular testing on the water chemistry and biology of each stream. They have tested for chlorine, phosphorus and nitrates in the water and looked for the presence of dragonflies, freshwater clams, worms and crayfish, which serve as water quality, stream health, and environmental indicators. From these measurements, Stafford has been able to determine the pollution levels for each of the 10 streams.

“The organisms living in these streams are very sensitive. A slight change in chemical levels can have a drastic effect on the streams and organisms, and many people are unaware of this,” said Stafford. Continue Reading.