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July 2020 Water Reporter Post of the Month

Our volunteer Water Reporters help us record how Casco Bay is changing.

Some volunteers, including Jeff Walawender, track conditions at a particular location on the coast regularly. This allows us to capture information, before, during, and after events happen. We use this observational data to identify and work to eliminate sources of pollution to the Bay.

This is why we have picked Jeff’s photo of an algae bloom along Pleasantdale Cove in South Portland, as our post of the month.

Tracking large algal blooms like this one can help us identify sources of excess nitrogen. An overdose of nitrogen can trigger excessive growth of nuisance algae, which smothers animals that live in mudflats, reduces water clarity, lowers oxygen levels, and causes acidic conditions that make it harder for clams and mussels to build and maintain their shells.

In response to the observations Jeff recorded, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca met with South Portland officials and Portland Harbor Master Kevin Battle, talked with the Department of Environmental Protection staff, and collected water samples to identify potential sources of nitrogen that could have fertilized the excessive bloom.

“Thanks to Jeff, we had photos tracking the development of the bloom and could see how much it grew after a major rainstorm caused large flows of stormwater to discharge to the cove,” says Ivy. “We then met with city officials and collected water samples from stormwater outfall pipes and tributaries  to help us better understand what may have caused this bloom.”

Jeff likes being able to lend a hand to our efforts to protect the health of the Bay. “It feels good to be part of the solution,” he says. “I have this phone in my pocket all the time, and it’s great that in just a few seconds I can snap a photo that can make a difference. One of the greatest features of Water Reporter is that not only does it track events like nuisance algae blooms, but it can also be used to document positive changes such as the return of wildlife and vegetation.”

Water Reporters are CommUNITY Champions

WMTW’s anchor, Steve Minich, has been following the work of our 229 volunteer Water Reporters this summer and has chosen them as this week’s CommUNITY Champions. You can watch the CommUNITY Champion segment and hear more about the efforts of our volunteers tomorrow (Friday, 8/28) at 6 p.m. on channel 8.

If you are interested in becoming a Water Reporter like Jeff, email Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman to find out how to get started.