Appomattox River Water Quality Monitoring Program


Monitoring the Appomattox River and its Tributaries since 1999
The Appomattox River Water Quality Monitoring Program, founded in 1999, is a project of Longwood University, Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences, and Clean Virginia Waterways. It has received funding from grants from the Virginia Environmental Endowment and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (Citizen Monitoring Grant). It receives additional support from Longwood University.
Longwood's Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences BES provides lab space and much of the necessary equipment (autoclave, fume hood, etc.) and glassware. Longwood University funds the majority of the student trips to scientific conferences which focus on such themes as student research in aquatic microbiology, community/citizen water monitoring programs, and areas of faculty development related to mentored research.

Our Goals:

1. Promote citizen participation in river monitoring; train citizen and student volunteers in water quality monitoring

2. Increase the quality, quantity and scope of monitoring of water quality parameters in the Appomattox River watershed.

3. Establish a sustainable network of partners.

4. Provide regional leadership and serve as a "clearinghouse" of information and training for volunteer water quality monitoring in the Appomattox River watershed.

5. The data collected will form a basis for long-term assessments of tributaries in the watershed.

6. Educate students from Longwood University (and other interested students) on water quality issues.

 

  Longwood students collect samples from a stormwater management pond on the campus.

7. Publicize volunteer water quality monitoring and related issues in order to increase citizen awareness on water quality issues.

8. Distribute the research results to local, state and federal decision makers for inclusion in watershed assessments, including Virginia's water quality reports.

 

In the field and in the lab, Longwood students gain experience in water quality testing.

Need for this program:
The Appomattox River drains 1,023,851 acres of agricultural, rural residential land and urban land to the James River then to the Chesapeake Bay and ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean. The confluence of the James and Appomattox Rivers is at Hopewell, Virginia. The 1,598 square mile Appomattox River basin drains portions of 12 counties in the Piedmont, several of which are included in this project's area of study.

Several of the watersheds within the Appomattox River Basin have been identified by Virginia's Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Department of Environmental Quality as having water quality impairments. Impaired streams in the Appomattox River basin include: Winterpock Creek, Winticomack Creek, Flat Creek, Nibbs Creek (which flows into Flat Creek), Deep Creek, Sandy River, Briery Creek, and Saylers Creek. Various Virginia Watershed Assessment Reports have identified pollution from animals and agriculture activities as possible sources of these impairments. One of the segments identified in Virginia's Impaired Waters list is a stretch of the Appomattox River.

Possible water quality problems experienced by the Appomattox River include forestry site-prep and harvesting erosion, agricultural erosion, and nonpoint pollution from agriculture and other sources. Targeted nutrient, bacterial, and organic chemical monitoring is necessary to delineate the extent of these problems, and to understand the causes and sources. By exploring the extent of the impairment of the Appomattox River, and understanding the factors that affect the quality of the river and its tributaries, we can take steps to restore the waterway. Continuous biological and chemical monitoring will also establish firm baseline data, necessary in a part of Virginia where the application of biosolids (processed human waste) and the expansion of factory farms (swine and poultry) are debated.

 

Parameters we monitor:
Monitors gather data on pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrates, temperature, and turbidity. In addition, volunteers collect water samples that are delivered to Longwood University's Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences for bacterial analysis.

Local Impact:
The water quality leadership role that the Longwood University and Clean Virginia Waterways partnership provides to the "heartland" of Virginia also has local impacts. We have presented our water monitoring data to local planners as well as to state agencies.

 

About Our Program:
David Buckalew, microbiologist and Assistant Professor of Biology (on the far right in this photo) and his students have performed bacterial assays focused on fecal coliform (including E. coli), and streptococci. Direct testing for pathogens (viruses, bacteria and protozoans that can cause disease) is impractical and prohibitively expensive. Instead, monitoring for pathogens uses "indicator" species—so called because their presence indicates that fecal contamination of water may have occurred.

Coliform bacteria live in the lower intestines of mammals and other animals and are present in high concentrations (10-100 million of E. coli per gram fecal matter). These bacteria are normally prevalent in the intestines and wastes of warm-blooded animals, including wildlife (deer, geese, raccoons), farm animals (swine, cattle, poultry), pets and humans.

The presence of these bacteria in waterways can signal contamination by sewage. Thus, coliform bacteria serve as fecal indicators, and their presence in high numbers indicate that disease-causing pathogens could also be present. The indicator bacteria themselves are not usually pathogenic. The CVW/Longwood program, like the state environmental quality program, tests water for the presence of fecal coliforms and E. coli.

Bacteria normally inhabit streams and rivers as an integral part of the food web (contributing to decomposition processes and to the food chain). Human activities may introduce pathogenic bacteria to the system. Of greatest concern to public health is the introduction of human and agricultural animal fecal waste.

The program found many streams in this area occasionally or regularly have elevated levels of fecal coliform. These streams include the Appomattox River, Green Creek, Angola Creek, Saylers Creek, and Buffalo Creek. Many of these polluted stream segments (which the state calls "impaired") are already on the state's list of impaired waters.

Sources of bacterial contamination include surface runoff from livestock congregation areas, inefficient septic systems, fecal waste from pets, storm water from streets and parking lots, sewage sludge, and untreated sewage discharge. Wildlife and waterfowl also add bacteria to waterways, and can be the dominant source of fecal coliform bacteria in some areas.

Uses of the Data:
1. Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) may use the data to list and delist impaired waters on the 303(d) Impaired Waters List
2. Virginia DEQ may use the data to
identify sources of pollution that may help in Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) development
3. Identify sources of pollution that may help the Town of Farmville solve the E. coli problem in Gross Creek (which drains most of the town).
4. Track progress of TMDL or other restoration activities
5. Identify waters for future monitoring by DEQ
6. Educating the community on local impacts to water quality and land use activities

Partners:
In addition to the leadership of Longwood University and Clean Virginia Waterways, this collaborative effort includes the organizational skills, technical knowledge and volunteer citizens of the following partners:

— Piedmont Soil and Water Conservation District
— Friends of the Appomattox River
— Prince Edward County
— Town of Farmville
— Citizen volunteers

Funding:

Funding to start this program was received from the Virginia Environmental Endowment and the Virginia Water Resource Research Center. Most of the years between 2001 and 2014, it recieved funding from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's Citizen Monitoring Grant. It has also been supported by the Longwood Fund for Student Research, Internships, and Public History, and local donations including the Town and Country Beautification Council and Prince Edward County.

 

 

Results of Research and the Appomattox River Water Quality Monitoring Program

Several publications and presentations have resulted from this research project including the following:

Buckalew, D.W., Tuono, A.J., Simmons, A.K., Lankford, T.W., and D.S. Smith. 2014. Uniform distribution of Escherichia coli within the water column in freshwater streams in the piedmont of Virginia. J. Water Res. (in Review)

Buckalew, D.W., T.M. Smith, S.F. Lucento, and Z. Jakab. 2013. Correlations between bacterial indicators and Salmonella in environmental waters. Poster presentation at the 113th General meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, Denver, CO, May 18-21, 2013.

Settell, K, D.W. Buckalew, and W.A. Znosko. 2013. The effect of coliform-impaired environmental water on the development and fertility of an aquatic vertebrate. Poster presentation at National Conference on Undergraduate Research, LaCrosse, WI, April 11-13, 2013.

 

Buckalew, D.W., T.M. Smith, S.F. Lucento, and Z. Jakab. 2012. How well do indicator bacteria estimate Salmonella in freshwater streams? Poster presentation at Annual Meeting, Virginia Branch – American Society for Microbiology (VA-ASM), Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, November 2, 2012.

Smith, T.M., and D.W. Buckalew. 2012. Molecular analysis of Salmonella serotypes isolated from Prince Edward County, VA waterways via sequential polymerase chain reaction. Poster presentation at Annual Meeting, VA-ASM, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, November 2, 2012.

Smith, T.M. and D.W. Buckalew. 2012. Serotyping Salmonella spp. from environmental waters: a visual protocol. Poster presentation at Annual Meeting, VA-ASM, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, November 2, 2012.

Lucento, S.F., T.M. Smith, and D.W. Buckalew. 2011. Use of indicator bacteria for assessment of water: change of a paradigm? Poster presentation at Annual Meeting, VA-ASM, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, November 4, 2011.

Smith, T.M., S.F. Lucento, and D.W. Buckalew. 2011. Salmonella spp. numbers much greater than indicator bacteria in environmental waters. Poster presentation at Annual Meeting, VA-ASM, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, November 4, 2011.

Jakab, Z., B.K. Rich, and D.W. Buckalew. 2009. Effects of a small, urban watershed on the bacterial water quality in a stormwater pond. Poster presented at the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) VA Branch meetings. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA Nov 13.

Beres, K.H. and D.W. Buckalew. 2009. Stability of Escherichia coli bacteria under common preservation techniques. Poster presented at the ASM VA Branch meetings. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA Nov 13.

Buckalew, D.W., A.J. Tuono, T.W. Lankford, and A.K. Simmons. 2007. Water sample depth and Escherichia coli stratification in freshwater streams. Manuscript in preparation

Considine, K.N., A.F. Flowers, and D.W. Buckalew. 2007. Bacterial data for the public: creating a web-based map of bacterial assessment sites within an urban watershed. Poster presented at the ASM VA Branch meetings. Univ. of Richmond, Richmond, VA Nov 9

Flowers, A.F., K.N. Considine, and D.W. Buckalew. 2007. Bacterial stratification within the stream column II: surface comparisons. Poster presented at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) VA Branch meetings. Univ. of Richmond, Richmond, VA Nov 9

Tuono, A.J., A.K. Simmons, T.W. Lankford, and D.W. Buckalew. 2007. Uniform distribution of Escherichia coli within the water column in freshwater streams in the piedmont of Virginia. Poster presentation at the 107th General Meetings of the American Society fro Microbiology, Toronto, Ont. Canada

Simmons, A.K., T.W. Lankford, and D.W. Buckalew. 2006. Effect of sampling depth on counts of Escherichia coli in freshwater streams. Poster presentation at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) VA Branch meetings, Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, VA

Buckalew, D.W., L.J. Hartman, G.A. Grimsley, A.E. Martin, and K.M. Register. 2006. A long-term study comparing membrane filtration with Colilert defined substrates in detecting fecal coliforms and Escherichia coli in natural waters. J. Environmental Management 80 (3): 191-197.

Tuono, A.J. and D.W. Buckalew. 2006. Water sample depth and Escherichia coli stratification in freshwater streams. Poster assembled for the 84th Annual Meeting of the Virginia Academy of Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

Tuono, A.J. and D.W. Buckalew. 2005. Effect of sampling depth on counts of Escherichia coli in streams: preliminary results. Poster presentation at the ASM Va branch meetings. VA Wesleyan University, Virginia Beach, VA

Register, K.M. 2005. Consideration of snow-melt and cold weather water quality monitoring with volunteers. Presentation to the Friends of Cosco Bay, ME

Buckalew, D.W. 2005. Bacteriologic assessment of water quality: Past and present. Presentation to the Dept. of Biology, College of Great Falls, Great Falls, MT

Hasinger, S. and D.W. Buckalew.  2004.  Applicability of using Coliscan gel for enumerating coliform bacteria in surface water samples.  Poster presentation at ASM Va branch meetings.  Bridgewater College, VA

Buckalew, D.W. and K.M. Register.  2004. Aquatic bacterial monitoring: coliform analysis using defined substrates technology. Presentation to the Citizens for Water Quality winter meeting, Longwood University. 

Buckalew, D.W.  2003. Incorporating applied topics into the undergraduate microbiology curriculum.  Presentation to the Division of Sciences, University of Charleston, WVa

Robertson, B.N. and D.W. Buckalew.  2003.  Fecal coliform loading in Sayler's Creek tributary of the upper Appomattox River, Virginia.  Poster presentation at ASM VA Branch meeting, UVa, Charlottesville, VA

Buckalew, D.W. and K.M. Register. 2004. Citizen water quality monitoring: Coliform analysis using defined substrates. Presentation to the VA DEQ Water Quality winter meeting, Longwood University. Feb 7.
Buckalew, D.W. 2003. Introducing microbiological topics to undergraduate science students. Presentation to the Division of Sciences, University of Charleston, Charleston, WVA. Dec 16.

Robertson, B.N., A.E. Martin, and D.W. Buckalew. 2003. Land use practices and coliform bacterial loading during rain events in the Sayler's Creek tributary of the upper Appomattox River, Virginia. Presented at annual Fall VAS Undergraduate Research meeting, Richmond, VA. October 18.

Buckalew, D.W. 2003. Citizen Water Quality Monitoring: Connections with Academia. Presented at the VA Save our Streams Citizens for Water Quality Summit, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. July 26.

Buckalew, D.W., K.E. Jones, G.A. Grimsley, L.J. Hartman, and K.M. Register. 2003. Long term testing for fecal coliform bacteria in Southcentral Virginia: Comparing membrane filtration and Colilert defined substrate methodologies. Proceedings of the 81st Annual Meeting of the Virginia Academy of Science, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, May 29.

Grimsley, G.A., K.E. Jones, and D.W. Buckalew. 2001. A comparison of membrane filtration vs. Colilertâ defined substrates in the determination of fecal coliform contamination in the upper Appomattox River watershed. Proceedings of the 79th Annual Meeting of the Virginia Academy of Sciences, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Jones, K.E., G.A. Grimsley, and D.W. Buckalew. 2001. Climatic influence on fecal coliform/fecal streptococci (FC/FS) ratios as source indicators of bacterial pollution in the upper Appomattox River watershed. Proceedings of the 79th Annual Meeting of the Virginia Academy of Sciences, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Buckalew, D. and M. Hafez. 2000. The results of a preliminary monitoring program for fecal coliform bacteria within the upper Appomattox River watershed. Proceedings of the Virginia Water Research Symposium 2000, Virginia Water Resources Center, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA.

For more information on the comparison of assessment techniques for fecal coliform bacteria, please see Dr. David Buckalew's web site by clicking here.

 

For more information on the Appomattox River Water Quality Monitoring Program, contact:

Clean Virginia Waterways
Longwood University
Farmville, VA 23909
Phone: 434-395-2602
E-Mail: cleanva@longwood.edu

Related Links:

Chapter about Water Quality Monitoring (for teachers)

EPA Water Quality Monitoring

Virginia Water Resource Center at Virginia Tech

Using Optical Brighteners to Monitor Water

 


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Our Work
Marine Debris (also known as aquatic debris or litter)

Aquatic litter and debris are any manufactured or processed solid waste that enters the aquatic environment from any source. In short, it is our misplaced waste and trash. It is a highly pervasive and visible form of pollution that has harmful impacts on wildlife and human health.

Aquatic ecosystems—streams, rivers, wetlands, and estuaries—are under considerable pressure from human activities, including incorrect disposal of trash. While the world's oceans are vast, they do not have an infinite ability to safely absorb our wastes. Preserving and restoring the quality of freshwater and marine environments requires that we understand how much trash we create, what we do with that trash, and how we can prevent it from entering our waterways.

Impacts on Aquatic Habitat
Habitat destruction or harm is caused when submerged debris (for example, a piece of plastic sheeting) covers seagrass beds, or smothers bottom-dwelling species. Some debris can also cause physical damage.

Impacts on Water Quality
Debris can also affect the water quality by adding chemicals to the water. Construction waste illegally dumped in a stream can include buckets that once held paints, solvents, and other chemicals. Cigarette butts and some other littered items contain toxic chemicals that leach into the water.

 

Learn more about marine debris and how we can prevent it!


Litter Prevention

Clean Virginia Waterways, together with BoatU.S. Foundation, created this sign that reminds boaters and anglers to "Bring it Back." The signs are laminated for outdoor use. They measure 8" x 8" and have English on one side, and Spanish on the other.

If you know of a marina or boat dock in Virginia that could use a sign, please contact CVW at cleanva@longwood.edu or call 434-395-2602.

Free while supplies last.

About Litter and Debris:

Litter Prevention Page

Cigarette Butt Litter—A Special Problem

Article about Aquatic Litter and Debris (written by CVW for school teachers and others)

Impacts of aquatic debris

Litter and Debris in our Waterways - Impacts, Sources and Solutions Page

What Volunteers Found in Virginia's Waterways--Data from past International Coastal Cleanups

How Data from the ICC are used

The International Coastal Cleanup in Virginia

Solutions

 

Teacher Professional Development

Course for Middle School Teachers: Summer of 2013
SOLstice: Summer of Learning – Science Teachers Investigating the Chesapeake Environment. This unique and exciting Chesapeake Bay Academy will bring together university faculty, practicing middle-school teachers, and pre-service middleschool science teachers to work collaboratively as “teacher-researchers.” Taught by Longwood University faculty in conjunction with Clean Virginia Waterways, Longwood University's Hull Springs Farm and other partners.

Clean Virginia Waterways' other spring and summer workshops for teachers are now being planned. Please send us an email (cleanva@longwood.edu) if you are interested in being notified!

Virginia's Water ResourcesA tool for Teachers curriculum packet
Virginia-specific! This book is full of information and activities for teachers to support interdisciplinary and problem-based teaching about watersheds, water quality, stewardship, and management issues. It supports the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement's goal to "provide a meaningful Bay or stream outdoor experience for every school student in the watershed before graduation from high school."

Virginia's Water Resources—A Tool for Teachers was written by Jeremy M. Lloyd, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Science Education, Longwood University, and Kathleen M. Register, Executive Director of Clean Virginia Waterways. It was developed through a grant from the Virginia Environmental Endowment. Click here for the Table of Contents and PDF files you can print.

World Water Monitoring DayVirginia-specific guide for educators
The World Water Monitoring Day is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies. Participants sample local water bodies for a core set of water quality parameters including temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity) and dissolved oxygen (DO). Results are shared with participating communities around the globe through the WWMD website: http://www.worldwatermonitoringday.org/

Clean Virginia Waterways worked with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Virginia Water Monitoring Council to create this Virginia-specific guide for educators thanks to a grant from Altria. This on-line guide will help you plan a safe and educational World Water Monitoring Day event on your school grounds, or in a nearby park.

More resources for educators, including how to handle animals in your classroom.

 


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Rain Barrels & Harvesting Rain Water

Clean Virginia Waterways is a leader in water conservation through the use of rain barrels. More than 160 nonprofit organizations and local governments have been trained by CVW to put on Rain Barrel Workshops in their communities. Tens of thousands rain barrels are deployed across Virginia thanks to CVW and its partners.

Conserve water, reduce runoff & save a bit of money
Drought or no drought, we should all conserve water. Virginia's groundwater and fresh water supplies are limited. As more people are using groundwater, we need to use it responsibly. Rainwater is usually free of dissolved minerals and great for your indoor plants, garden and lawn, washing your car, and your birdbaths.

If your roof's area is 1,200 square feet (30 x 40 feet), then 1 inch of rain equals more than 700 gallons! Harvest this rainwater which otherwise would be lost to runoff. To harvest even more rainwater, connect several barrels in a series and have 100s of gallons of water capacity.

Runoff can cause erosion, plus carry fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals into streams where they are very damaging. Rain barrels help you manage peak storm runoff. If you get your water from the town, why pay to water your gardens when you can collect hundreds of gallons at no cost? Also, if you depend on electricity to run your well pump, water in rain barrels is handy in power outages.

Rain Barrel Workshops
Every spring, CVW works with partners across the state in offering rain barrel workshops. Workshops cover water conservation, how to prevent polluted runoff, the benefits of rain barrels, how to install and maintain a rain barrel, and how to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Send an email to cleanva@longwood.edu to learn about upcoming workshops. Please put "Rain Barrel Workshop" in the subject line.

 

Would your organization or park like to co-sponsor a Rain Barrel Workshop with CVW? Call CVW at 434-395-2602 to learn more about workshops and supplies for workshops (barrels, faucet kits, etc.).

How to make a rain barrel from a food-grade barrel: Directions here

Virginia Waterways Cleanup
Part of the International Coastal Cleanup
September 1 through October 31 annually

Sites for the 2014 Virginia Waterways Cleanups (September and October) will soon be registering volunteers! It is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Find a cleanup site near you. (2014 cleanup sites will be posted later this summer)

2. Contact the Site Captain to register and get details on where to meet.

3. Show up, cleanup & fill out a data card! Bring some friends & family members too! Your actions = cleaner water!

This annual cleanup of trash and litter in our rivers and on our beaches is part of the International Coastal Cleanup and is the largest event held by Clean Virginia Waterways.

Thousands of volunteers gather along the shorelines of Virginia’s rivers, lakes, bays, and beaches in September and October to cleanup litter and debris, and recycle found items.  They also complete Data Cards, supplied by Ocean Conservancy, to collect valuable information about the amounts and types of litter and debris. Please participate in this statewide and international effort dedicated to cleaning the world’s waterways.

If you would like to be a LEADER of a cleanup, please signup to be a Site Captain or call Clean Virginia Waterways at 434-395-2602, or send an email to cleanva@longwood.edu


Cigarette butts as litter

Clean Virginia Waterways was a pioneer in researching cigarette butt litter -- the most common type of litter in Virginia, in the U.S.A. and in the world according to data collected by International Coastal Cleanup Volunteers.

Learn all about cigarette butt litter, and the simple steps that we can take to reduce this form of litter.

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Balloons as litter: a problem we can solve

Balloons become litter when released into the air. Guess you can say there is a "down side" to balloons.

Help us collect information about balloons as litter!

Citizen scientists are being asked to help collect data about balloons found in Virginia between April 22, 2012 and April 22, 2014. This "Earth Day to Earth Day" study is co-sponsored by Clean Virginia Waterways and the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. Learn More about this ground-breaking study, or click here if you are ready to enter data about balloons you have found.

What goes up must come down! Balloons return to the land and sea where they can be mistaken for prey and eaten by animals. Balloons are hazards when they enter the aquatic environment because they can look a great deal like jellyfish—a major source of food for many animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish, and seabirds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs. In 1985, an infant sperm whale was found dead of starvation as a result of ingestion of an inflated Mylar balloon which had lodged in its intestines. Ribbons and strings tied to balloons can lead to entanglement.

Instead of balloon releases...

We can celebrate with balloons! Just don't let them go!

Learn more about the impacts of balloon litter...and the solutions!