New Brunswick

Citizen science: Water-testing blitz in Cape Tormentine area

The Sackville-based non-profit group EOS Eco-Energy is hosting a citizen science water-sampling blitz Saturday in the southeastern corner of New Brunswick.

Non-profit group seeks to pinpoint areas of concern for water-quality monitoring

EOS Eco-Energy staff members Emma Snowdon, left, and Kelli-Nicole Croucher, will be set up Saturday in four communities around the Cape Tormentine peninsula. (EOS Eco-Energy)

People in the southeastern corner of New Brunswick have a chance Saturday to get water tested for free.

The Sackville-based non-profit group EOS Eco-Energy is hosting a sampling blitz.

"There's been lots of interest in water quality as of recently and in citizen science," said Kelli-Nicole Croucher, the group's watershed co-ordinator told Jonna Brewer, host of Information Morning Moncton. 

Croucher is hoping residents and cottagers will come by to pick up bottles and then take them to collect samples "from beaches, streams, ponds, lakes — any surface water that's of interest to them."

"It's a fun way to learn about water quality first hand."

Mount Allison University student Wei Li, left, and Kelli-Nicole Croucher, watershed co-ordinator at EOS Eco-Energy, collect water samples in the Tantramar area. (EOS Eco-Energy/Facebook)

A station will be set up at the Baie-Verte community hall at 9 a.m., then move to Centennial Park in Port Elgin for 11 a.m., Cape Tormentine Beach Campground by 1:10 p.m. and finally at Keepsake Crafts in Murray Corner from 3:10 to 5 p.m.

Croucher said she will teach volunteers the proper technique for water sampling and samples will be kept at the proper storage temperature in a cooler until they are transported back to the lab.

She said the samples will be tested for E. coli and enterococcus​ by EOS staff in partnership with the Campbell laboratory at Mount Allison University.

The results will be posted on the EOS website and used to flag potential locations for a new water-quality monitoring program next year on the Cape Tormentine peninsula, she said.

It will be a snapshot, not a complete picture, said Croucher, and the results may skew high for bacteria if it rains.

"That can create an elevated response because you're getting more run off. It's washing off more contaminants from over the land," she said.

"We're looking at establishing the baseline and then, going forward, to protect and ensure the water quality."

This poster advertises a water sampling blitz Saturday by the non-profit group EOS Eco-Energy. (EOS Eco-Energy/Facebook)

Water quality has been a hot topic in the area in recent years, since swimming closures were required at beaches just up the coast. 

Mount A's Doug Campbell has been working on a database of water-quality results for the area for a couple of years now. 

"With funding from the New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund we assembled all the available microbial water quality counts for sites, primarily along the Northumberland Coast of New Brunswick, dating back to the 1940s," he said.

The database is available online and is searchable. Campbell said the blitz results will be added to it.

"Going forward this resource can be used to analyze changing patterns of microbial contamination to figure out problem areas, problem weather patterns, management interventions that did or did not work, or changes that go along with development or coastal protection."

Campbell said he is not concerned about the quality of the data, given citizen scientists will be doing the collecting.

"The sampling will be supervised and the actual microbial counts will be done by a qualified technician using industry standard automated systems recently installed in our lab, again with funding from the New Brunswick Environmental Trust fund," he said, in an email sent from the Czech Republic, where he is doing research.

"People can swim in the Danube River across the border in Austria, with a population density many times higher than New Brunswick," said Campbell. 

"If they can get it right, we can get it right."