Tess Crowley/Daily
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It’s officially spring, which means that the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) is back to collecting bacteria samples in the field. Today, I met with Andrea Paine, the Watershed Planning Associate who runs their Chemistry and Flow Monitoring program. Andrea and a long-time volunteer, Larry, were doing monitoring work at Honey Creek, a site west of Ann Arbor with historic E. coli issues. The HRWC serves as a consultant for a collaborative group known as the Middle Huron Partners and conducts monitoring for them under the direction of the Clean Water Act. 

The Huron River is over 125 miles long, weaving through many Michigan cities. This means that there is over 125 miles of land that surrounds and drains into the Huron River. The land area that drains into a river, stream or lake is known as a watershed. Maintaining the pristine condition of a watershed is essential to maintaining the health of the communities that surround it. 

After rainfall, there is a higher concentration of E. coli and total phosphorus in a body of water. This is caused by pollutants that build on surfaces, eventually flushing into creeks and rivers during precipitation. Pollutant run-off from the Huron River watershed may make its way into the drinking water of communities such as Ann Arbor. A healthy Huron River watershed is essential to the health of aquatic life in the river and in ensuring the health of the communities that border the river. 

Spring, especially during the month of April, brings an onslaught of rain and erratic weather. The HRWC begins its monitoring work at the beginning of the month of April and ends in September. While the municipalities only require bi-annual monitoring, the HRWC monitors different sites along the Huron River bi-weekly throughout the months of April to September. At Honey Creek, Andrea and Larry tested for E. coli, total phosphorus, total suspended solids, nitrate, sulphate and chloride, as well as the water’s flow, measured by its depth and velocity, all within a matter of fifteen minutes.

After testing, the pair brings the samples to the Ann Arbor water treatment plant. After a year, they compile the data to look for any extended exceedances of values such as the E. coli partial and full-body standards. If there are consistent high counts, the HRWC will contact the surrounding environmental water resources department and work with local governments to remedy the problem. E. coli numbers cannot exceed the partial body standard of 300 counts per 100 milliliters for activities such as swimming, and the full-body standard of 1,000 counts per 100 milliliters for activities like fishing and kayaking. 

Andrea and Larry are just two of the number of volunteers at the Huron River Watershed Council that work to keep monitor these levels in order to keep our community safe. 

Statement Photographer Tess Crowley can be reached at crowlete@umich.edu.