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Ferrum College water quality program enters 35th year

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:02 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Every Tuesday from May until August, Ferrum college students head out to Smith Mountain Lake, monitoring for chemicals, bacteria and algal blooms in the water.

“We look for runoff, we look for water clarity, and all of that is important, that the lake stays as clean as it is, and it’s in excellent shape,” says senior scientist Bob Pohlad.

The project is a collaboration of faculty, students and the Smith Mountain Lake Association.

Stakeholders of the lake and local health departments then use the data to actively inform people if there are any concerns.

“My assignment is total phosphorous and I also work on bacteria and the algae,” says intern Lauren Jutras. “My favorite part is counting algae and looking under the microscope; it’s always something new, it’s never the same.”

“When we had our bloom earlier in the year it was very exciting to see what kind of algae was causing all that stuff in the water,” says college senior Marco Diaz.

Professors say it’s a team effort with residents of the lake, with over 40 volunteers who live there sampling different locations, for the college students to collect and test.

“They know enough about what they’re doing to help teach their neighbors and other people why this is important and why everyone should care about the water quality of the lake,” says lab and field coordinator Carol Love.

“Once I’m doing this job people will know what’s in the water, so families will take their kids or people who want to trust the numbers of what is in the lake, they can come and have fun and recreate here,” says intern Luis Cevallos.

The program publishes a newsletter every month.

For more information and the latest water quality data from the program, click here.

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