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Program monitors water quality on Smith Mountain Lake

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 6:16 PM EDT
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SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE, Va. (WDBJ) -While many folks will be embracing the holiday weekend on boats or in the water, a team of students, professors and citizen scientists has been working to monitor water quality.

“Anyone that lives within this watershed can have an impact on the health of the lake,” Water Quality Program Director Delia Heck said.

That’s why for more than three decades, Ferrum College and the Smith Mountain Lake Association have teamed up for their annual Smith Mountain Lake Water Quality Program.

Students and professors will test the temperature and collect samples for things like E. coli and algal blooms.

Students and professors will test the temperature and collect samples for things like E. coli and algal blooms.
Students and professors will test the temperature and collect samples for things like E. coli and algal blooms.(WDBJ7)

“I really have a love for this kind of work. I am an environmental science major, so this is one of the fields I am looking to getting into,” Ferrum College Senior Sam Chappell said.

In the program’s 2019 report, E. coli levels were higher than in 2018. But so far this year, program organizers said the lake is giving healthier readings.

“Our first week of sampling in late May we didn’t have any spots on the lake that exceeded the VDH limit. Two weeks ago, we only had three spots. So far we’ve had a very good summer relative to our E. coli readings,” Heck said.

Sam Easter lives on the lake and helps motor Heck and the students to the different testing sites on the water. Easter is just one of about 70 citizen scientists who helps with the program and collects their own water samples to be tested back at the labs at Ferrum College.

“We’ve got the most beautiful place on the earth to live, in my opinion, and we should take care of it and appreciate it,” Easter said.

That type of passion is helping protect this vital resource, Heck said.

“Over time reservoirs tend to decline in health, but over time, this lake has actually gotten healthier because of the educational programs and the great stewardship and partnership that is here,” Heck said.

So as they continue to collect and gather data, this team is making sure we can all enjoy the life and fun the lake has to offer.

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