Logan Martin Lake Protection Association (LMLPA) started water monitoring on the lake in 1996 to fulfill their mission of ‘GUARDING LOGAN MARTIN LAKE WATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY’ (see www.lmlpa.org for more information). Over the past 16 years, LMLPA has coordinated the monitoring activities of 131 volunteers who have been trained and certified as Alabama Water Watch monitors. They have contributed over 2, 000 water chemistry records and 540 bacteriological records to the AWW statewide online database (accessible at www.alabamawaterwatch.org). Three have monitored faithfully for more than 15 YEARS (see graph below)!
The group became increasingly concerned about health risks at public swimming areas in the lake where Canada geese and other waterfowl have taken up residence. Acting on this concern, the group began a bacteriological monitoring program at Pell City’s Lakeside Park swimming area. Bacteriological sampling by AWW-certified LMLPA monitors is done routinely once a month and following significant rain events.
With data in hand, showing dangerous spikes in E. coli concentrations in swimming areas following significant rain events (see bar graph below from one monitored site), the group communicated their findings to the county health department and the mayor of Pell City. The health department informed LMLPA and the mayor that they would investigate only after an illness is suspected of being linked to contaminated waters. The group was advised to keep testing and bring the issued back up if E. coli numbers increase.
Note in the bacteria graph above that all yellow and red bars indicate dates when E. coli levels were above (sometimes dramatically higher) 235 E. coli per 100 milliliters of water, the maximum level that ADEM considers safe for swimming and other water-based recreational activity (based on sampling data from a single date).
The City decided to adopt a proactive approach and closed the public beach when LMLPA detect high levels of E. coli. The City is now considering multiple measures to address the pathogen contamination of its public swimming areas, including:
- an ordinance prohibiting feeding geese in the public swimming areas, and city-wide,
- installation of signage alerting the public to not feed the geese,
- installation of monofilament barriers to restrict geese access to public swim areas, and,
- possible relocation of the geese.
Meanwhile, the group continues its diligent sampling in this and other areas to document the risk to the public, educate the public along with local and state officials about the risk to human health, and to pursue positive change in water policy to clean up their lake. Given that pathogen-contaminated waters pose a risk to the public’s health in many streams, rivers and lakes throughout the state, the volunteer monitoring efforts of LMLPA’s efforts can serve as a model for Alabama for a cost-effective partnership in addressing the threat.
Other AWW volunteer monitor groups have also begun bacteriological monitoring programs, including groups around the Auburn area, on Lake Wedowee, on Smith Lake, on Wolf Bay, and others. AWW has recently drafted a Position Paper outlining how AWW-certified monitors can be a part of a cost-effective method to address increasing threats to public health from pathogen-contaminated waters (click here to view AWW’s Position Paper). To learn more about community-based watershed monitoring, check us out at www.alabamawaterwatch.org, or contact us at (888) 844-4785 (toll free). And kudos to LMLPA – you exemplify what AWW is all about!