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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill Stream Team 2.0 now open for volunteers interested in water monitoring

A Bolin Creek flows swiftly on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

The Town of Chapel Hill is currently taking interest forms for Stream Team 2.0, a program that gives Chapel Hill volunteers the opportunity to monitor water quality for 10 sources in the area.

The program has 10 teams, each with one to four volunteers. The teams will monitor the water quality at a specific water source four times throughout the year. Interest forms are open to any residents over the age of 14, but minors must have an adult on their team.

Volunteers rank which water source they want to monitor, and the Town's Stormwater Management Office assigns teams to sources.

Sammy Bauer, the community education coordinator in the Division of Stormwater Management, said each team member will attend two trainings, one on chemical monitoring equipment and the other on habitat assessments.

“We're excited to be able to teach more and more folks what to look for, both in terms of being able to tell if things are going well in a creek and if things are not going well,” Bauer said.

They also said they hope to create a community where people can help the Town monitor local water quality and connect with others who share this interest. 

Hope Taylor, the executive director of Clean Water for North Carolina, said when measuring water quality citizens are testing for specific compounds, such as calcium as well as organic materials, like algae or bacteria.

She said it's important to know what to look for during chemical monitoring to avoid spending thousands of dollars looking for every compound or material.

Bauer said the first iteration of Stream Team was created by the former stormwater management community outreach coordinator, Wendy Smith.

They've built on their predecessor’s vision by investing in more precise equipment which will allow volunteers to collect more specific and accurate information. Stream Team 2.0 will also have an app, which will feature all of the protocols and questions for each water site, Bauer said.

They said Stream Team 2.0 will share the data collected by volunteers with other water quality experts and environmental organizations, such as the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and the Cape Fear River Watch.

Bauer said the first iteration of the program collected a lot of data in the Stormwater Management Office's internal computers, but it was not shared with other organizations because of the limits of their technology.

"Now we have more fun tools to play with," they said. "So, we want to make sure that folks get to see that data."

Taylor said that along with individual efforts, getting civically involved in water quality monitoring can help to ensure clean water for all residents. She said the public must be involved in encouraging local and state governments to create high water quality expectations.

“There are smart things you can do to know what the important sources of pollution are in your area and to limit both the sources of pollution and the ways that they're transported, which tends to be during big pulses of water during storms,” Michael Piehler, the director of the UNC Institute for the Environment and UNC's chief sustainability officer, said.

Stream Team 2.0 interest form is available online through the Town's website and will be available through Sept. 19.

@DTHCityState |

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