Sierran Masthead

Volunteers Test the Waters in Indiana

By Lori Hazlett, Hoosier Chapter Coordinator

What's in H2O? Two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen…sounds pretty reasonable to me. How about adding 400 bags of fertilizer and over 250 billion E. coli bacteria to a pleasant stream running through a public park? Sounds unreasonable? Actually it could be OK and meet the state standards for water quality. This of course depends on flow and the specific standard, but those and perhaps more pollutants flow under the bridge over Eagle Creek in Zionsville, through Garfield Park in Indianapolis, and in the White River across the state. How do we know bacteria is in the water? Sierra Club volunteers have been out and about testing. Seeing just what is in the water, and how much "stuff" the water can transport safely, is a task Sierra Club volunteers are working on in Indiana.

Heartlands Group, Dunelands Group, Wildcat Group, and the Winding Waters Group have all obtained a Hoosier Riverwatch grant, which provides testing equipment to measure habitat and water quality. In addition to checking for levels of bacteria and pollutants, we also see what kind of critters are around because they can provide a longer-term view of water condition.

Members of the Winding Waters Group do water testing.

Lori Hazlett, chapter coordinator, points to a combined sewer overflow (CSO) warning sign in Indianapolis. The sign is not exactly in plain view-below the bridge railing and in a significant mass of poison ivy. This CSO empties into Bean Creek, which flows under the bridge into Garfield Park.

Mary Anne Gfell and Nancy Moore of the Heartlands Group are trained for water testing.

In addition to the Riverwatch testing, the club is also active in monitoring the TMDL process (Total Maximum Daily Load), where the state must create a plan to determine the maximum amount of bad stuff that can be in our streams and rivers and come up with a method to reduce the pollution below that level.

Water quality has improved over the last decades by eliminating point source pollution-pipes or other sources of pollution you can "point" at. Our biggest problem is non-point source pollutants, such as sediment from new construction and farm fields or the runoff of fertilizer and pesticides you just put on your lawn before that sudden summer rain.

These and other sources are tough to identify and require a lot of long-term effort to correct, but this is the challenge we face if we are to have streams we can enjoy safely and water fit to drink.

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[09/08/03]efp

Fall 2003