The first step in our investigation is called “trends monitoring.” Water samples are collected near the mouths of major streams in the watershed to give us an idea of the water quality going into the bay. By looking at the data over time, we can identify areas that are consistently more polluted and need further investigation.
Teams then work their way upstream collecting water samples to test for fecal coliform (FC) bacteria. Testing for FC is a quick, inexpensive and widely-accepted means to determine if pathogens from human and/or animal waste may be present in the water. When bacteria levels are high, people can get sick from swimming in the bay or eating shellfish harvested in the area.
Using this process of “segmented sampling” we can further narrow the search of pollution sources. At this point we contact owners of neighboring properties to discuss potential concerns, additional testing steps, and how they can help. In some instances, tracer dye testing is used to track the interaction of groundwater with creeks and sloughs in the project area.