February 2010
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New Sampling Station on the Portage

The National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg College is building and installing a new water sampling station in the Village of Woodville. The team is hoping to have it in place in February, 2010. The station will be placed on the north side of the bridge in Woodville. On the other side of the bridge, the United States Geographic Survey (USGS) maintains a stream gage which records the river stage - a measure of water level and velocity which yields the rate of water discharge. The new Heidelberg sampling station will collect water samples for research into what is carried in the water. Researchers plan to start by measuring nutrients (phosphorus and nitrates) and sediment. Current information on nutrients will be included in the Portage River Watershed Plan which is currently being created at TMACOG. This information is also important to TMACOG’s Portage River Basin Council and is helpful for grant applications.

The sampling system has a pump that is placed in the river. It pipes water continuously from the river into a small building. Inside the building is a reservoir where the water pools before continuing back to the river. From the reservoir in the building, water samples will be automatically drawn every four hours around the clock. Staff will visit once a week, take away the sample bottles, and restock. The building is refrigerated and automated.

Dr. David Baker, director emeritus of the Center for Water Quality Research, says that many researchers use the data collected by Heidelberg sample stations in the Lake Erie basin. Information is used for land-use planning, to study point source and non-point source pollutants, and to collect data for Total Maximum Daily Load studies. When funding cuts threatened operations at the Lake Erie Basin collecting stations operated by the center, the agencies that rely on the data they produce quickly worked out how to guarantee continued operation, and to build the new sampling center on the Portage. The other three stations are on larger rivers. Dr. Baker says that he was pleased to get the opportunity to work on the Portage. He said, “On a smaller waterway, we have a better chance of detecting a pollution event. Also, we are interested in collecting data in reference to AFO (animal feeding operation) facilities.” He noted that the reason for around the clock testing is related to storms. A big storm with heavy rain or snow can bring a lot of sediment into the river. If fertilizer or manure was spread just before a storm, samples will show if excess flowed into the river. The constant testing will let researchers find even a short term pollution event. While nutrients and sediment are the first focus, Dr. Baker notes that graduate students or agencies with a special concern can use the facility for any water export research.

When the station is operational, the Portage river data will be posted on the Heidelberg website. Historical data from a sampling center at the same spot in 1974-76 will also be posted. The website includes many tools for researchers: spreadsheets that can be sorted depending on what the researcher is studying, tools for analysis of the spreadsheets and tutorials about how to use the resources available.

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