Volunteers Help Nonprofit Monitor Deckers Creek

Morgantown Dominion Post
17 May 2012

THIS COLUMN highlights positive experiences that regularly occur in the Morgantown area. The hope is that spotlighting such experiences will remind people of the friendliness that defines the majority of West Virginia’s Mountaineer nation.

FOR SOME PEOPLE, getting dirty is part of the job.

For others, occasionally getting dirty, and wet, is their contribution to the community’s quality of life.

These are the 200-300 people who volunteer each year to take the temperature of Deckers Creek, count the fish in it, collect bugs along the stream and pick up trash along highways and trails.

This year, another 40 or so will be added to handle a new challenge, said Elizabeth Wiles, the new executive director of Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC).

FODC has received funding through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Justice Small Grants program to train volunteers to regularly test water at 40 locations in the watershed to establish a water quality baseline.

These volunteers are the citizen scientists being trained in the various testing procedures they have agreed to do every other week for a year at a particular location, she said.

Thirty are in this group. Another dozen is expected to join them following the training in July.

FODC also has a Shovel Corps, she said. It works with Martin Christ, the group’s water remediation director, to maintain the organization’s Acid Mine Drainage remediation projects.

These projects are neutralizing the acid mine drainage seeping into the Deckers Creek Watershed.

This month, FODC started its stream macroinvertebrate sampling, another program handled by volunteers who are not afraid of what you might find in a wild stream like Deckers Creek.

“We have ongoing monitoring that’s part of our clean creek program,” Wiles said.

Also collected by volunteers, that data is used to determine what areas of the watershed need additional help to eliminate pollutants, and to establish priorities for projects.

“We know what our projects are supposed to be doing, and the data will help let us know that our projects are working correctly,” she said.

“During the course of the year, we have from 200-300 volunteers helping with water monitoring, bug sampling and sorting, fish sampling and sorting, highway cleanup, and smaller tasks with remediation projects.”

These volunteers make the programs possible.

An environmental conservation program, FODC needs specific data to determine how to best target its assets, as well as how effectively the programs operate.

This is especially true for the citizen scientist program, she said. “Within the staff here, we don’t have the capacity to go out and take this data at 40 different sites.”

It’s important to have environmental data and information on a watershed, especially if a location will be affected by Marcellus shale gas drilling, she said.

It also helps identify pollutants not associated with gas drilling, and pinpoint their source.

IF YOUR HAVE an experience to share, send information to news room@dominionpost.com.