Volunteers measure health of Scarborough Marsh – Portland Press Herald – pressherald.com

Volunteers Measure Health Of Scarborough Marsh Portland Press Herald Pressherald Com
Volunteers Measure Health Of Scarborough Marsh Portland Press Herald Pressherald Com 1

Greg Bither, left, and Don Salvatore collect data at Scarborough Marsh to monitor its health.. Courtesy photo

The Scarborough Marsh is a precious natural resource and its health is a prime concern to the community. Friends of Scarborough Marsh (FOSM) volunteers are monitoring its current and future health by participating in the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Volunteer River Monitoring Program (VRMP).

Volunteers dedicate time gathering data from local rivers and streams to input statistics into the DEP’s database. The DEP uses the data to analyze water body health and to make recommendations about waterways in jeopardy which need additional resources to improve conditions.

Every two weeks FOSM board members Greg Bither and Betsy Barrett, along with volunteers Don Salvatore and Sue Williams, brave the mud, weather, slippery rocks and road traffic to gather information. They visit eight rivers or streams which are tributaries to the marsh. They collect data on water temperature, bacteria content, conductivity (a measure of salinity as well as purity), and dissolved oxygen as well as make observations of water clarity, depth of flow, odor, turbidity, and a host of other measures. These indicators form a baseline for the health of the marsh so that any changes monitored in these characteristics or abnormalities in their numbers provides valuable information to help in making decisions about future actions.

So how is the health of Scarborough Marsh? For now, many signs are positive. There are a few warning signs such as abnormally high bacterial contents in some tributaries, which have been previously identified and studied. However, the marsh is generally healthy, and most of the waterways are not in a dangerous category. Changes over time will best guide any future needs, and the efforts of this group will be sure to provide red flags when appropriate.

The public is invited to help in this volunteer effort, from May to October. For more information, email Greg at: [email protected]

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