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Become a Winter Volunteer Monitor for Starkweather Creek

Become a Winter Volunteer Monitor for Starkweather Creek

CARPC is looking for volunteers to measure conductivity from October 2020 to March 2021 at one of four locations along Starkweather Creek: Melvin Ct, Fair Oaks Ave, Route 30 and Ivy St. To learn more and register as a volunteer, visit carpcwaterqualityplan.org.

In February, the Capital Area RPC was awarded a DNR River Planning Grant to develop a Chloride Management Plan for the Starkweather Creek watershed, a chloride-polluted stream on the east side of Madison. Chloride concentrations in the creek have steadily increased since monitoring began three decades ago. At times, chloride concentrations are toxic and can harm aquatic life.

After bringing together a Steering Committee to help develop, support, and implement the plan, the project now seeks to document how much chloride enters Starkweather Creek from winter salt application. A special focus will measure surges in chloride after road salt is applied and snow melt enters the stream.

Twenty percent of the Starkweather Creek watershed requires winter snow removal – mostly parking lots (8%) and roads (9%). It is estimated that 15% of the watershed is de-iced with chloride (Cl) products after each snow event, since not all surfaces are regularly salted (NaCl). Salt used to de-ice roads, parking lots, sidewalks and driveways either moves with snowmelt into storm sewers and local waterways or seeps into the ground, flowing in groundwater that replenishes streams year-round.

Map of the Starkweather Creek watershed showing salted roads, parking lots, and volunteer monitoring sites.

Volunteers will document what occurs in Starkweather Creek as snow melts. We want to know where toxic conditions occur and for how long. Volunteer monitors will provide key information on the water’s conductivity (a good estimator for chloride) during these events. If you live near one of the sampling sites and are interested in becoming involved, we invite you to participate.

During the sampling period, volunteers will receive a notification to sample within 48 hours of a prompting event such as road salt application and warming pavement temperatures. Water samples will be collected from shores or bridges; volunteers should only sample when they feel comfortable accessing their assigned site. Volunteers will use test strips for chloride and a handheld meter for specific conductance. If conductivity is high, volunteers will collect a sample for chloride lab analysis and then return to the site within 24 hours to collect another set of measurements.