A program in Roanoke is looking for volunteers to become citizen scientists in an effort to clean up the city’s waterways.
As part of the Roanoke Riverkeepers program, volunteers will help monitor the water quality of the Roanoke River and its tributaries.
“Right now, there are too many pollutants in the streams,” said Leigh Anne Weitzenfeld, Roanoke water quality administrator.
Government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environmental Quality do not often get to test water from every stream, Weitzenfeld said. The volunteers will collect data to find out which waterways are most in need of cleanup, she added.
The Roanoke Stormwater Utility is teaming up with the Clean Valley Council and the Upper Roanoke River Roundtable to try to reduce pollutants in the Roanoke River and its tributaries. According to Weitzenfeld, 11 of the 13 tributaries in the city have been deemed impaired for having too many pollutants.
“Right now, most of them are impaired for recreation,” she explained. “They’re not unsafe to be in, but we need to clean it up a little bit more for optimal recreation use.”
The volunteers will collect water samples from the river and its tributaries in the city to determine how clean the water is, Weitzenfeld said. They will examine aquatic insects living in the water, she added.
“Citizen science is a really expanding field,” Weitzenfeld said. “It’s an exciting field.”
“I am going to school for environmental science water quality, so this has a lot to do with water quality, monitoring the streams,” said Brianna Hatcher, who is interested in the Riverkeepers program.
Program leaders say getting people like Hatcher involved helps collect information and raise awareness about water quality issues.
“We don’t want there to be a disconnect between people who live in the city limits as well as just in the watersheds and the subwatersheds of the Roanoke River to really not know what’s going on or to feel like they don’t have a stake in clean water,” said Sharon Stinnette, Riverkeepers program manager.
The Roanoke Riverkeepers program is still looking for volunteers to help. The volunteers attend training sessions to become citizen scientists, Weitzenfeld said.