Testing our waters in the name of science

For more than 10 years volunteers have collected water once-a-month during the summer from Adirondack ponds and lakes to test them for a number of characteristics. The Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA), which has recently moved its headquarters from North Creek to Saranac Lake, administers the Adirondack Lakes Assessment Program (ALAP). Paul Smiths College in Paul Smiths does the laboratory work for the reports that follow acidity, salt content, turbidity, algae levels, temperature. After about five years, trends may be detected which can indicate pollution from phosphorus increases, road salt impacts, acid rain, or climate change. The protocol, which people with no scientific training can learn to do, includes lowering a Secchi disk to test for clarity of the water, collecting water using a special long tube to get not just surface water; filtering some of it using a vacuum hand pump; and freezing a small bottle of water which is stored in a local freezer until another volunteer delivers them to Paul Smiths. The water should be taken in the middle of a sunny, calm day by two people, but it is possible for one person to do it in a solo boat with proper counterbalancing. Many volunteers also check for invasive species such as Eurasian water milfoil and purple loosestrife while they are out on the water This year about 80 lakes and ponds were tested by residents and summer people who care about the quality of the water in Adirondack lakes and ponds. Anyone interested in the program can contact Johanna Sorrell at (518) 891-1002 Ext. 17 or rcpa.johanna@verizon.net.

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