4-H Water Quality Day With Cape Fear River Watch

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4-H Families pose for a picture in front of Greenfield Lake with some of the trash collectedThis month, several of our 4-H members and families went out to Greenfield Lake in Wilmington NC. to volunteer with Cape Fear River Watch and perform a trash cleanup and water quality testing. We spent the drizzly Saturday morning cleaning up approximately 30 lbs of trash in 45 minutes!

4-H members going down to the water's edge to collect a water sample

During the clean-up, 4-H members had the opportunity to collect water samples along the way at different areas of the lake. Once the rain started we packed up the samples and headed to the Cape Fear River Watch lab where we prepared the water samples for analysis. Our 4-H members did a great job making the solution, pouring it into the analysis bag, and placing them in specialized incubators for 24hrs for the bacteria to grow, if present. There the samples were tested for E. Coli Bacteria concentration by observing the prepared samples under a black light machine.

4-H Member measuring out water for solution4-H Member looking into analysis machine to see the sample under a blacklight4-H Members preparing sample solution

Kristen Rhodes with Cape Fear River Watch reported these numbers once the samples were analyzed the following day:

Water sample under a blacklight

Of the 5 samples taken at Greenfield Lake, all 5 failed to pass safe standards of bacteria. This means that Greenfield Lake has an elevated amount of E.coli bacteria in it. For Freshwater (all of the Greenfield Lake samples) a passing score is anything that is less than or equal to 234 mpn. The mpn stands for the most probable number of bacteria colonies forming in a 100ml sample, which is how big our samples were. The results from the samples taken by our 4-H’ers have E.coli bacterial levels ranging from 770 mpn to over 2419.6 mpn!

4-H Member placing water sample in a specialized freshwater incubator

The reason bacteria levels in Greenfield Lake are so high is because of polluted storm water draining into Greenfield Lake. Often when it rains around Greenfield Lake the storm water that is polluted with bacteria from pet waste, trash, etc., drains into the lake and makes water quality worse. Along with this, when we go periods of time without any rain, the lake becomes stagnant. This allows for bacteria to grow with nothing competing against it or stopping it from happening. There are things we can do to prevent pollution from entering our waters in the first place. The first biggest thing we can do is pick up our pet’s waste to prevent it from washing into our local ponds and streams when it rains. The second biggest thing we can do to help is by disposing of our trash appropriately and encouraging others to do the same.

Thank you to all the 4-H Families who attended and helped work to keep our water clean!

To learn more about New Hanover County 4-H, contact New Hanover County Extension/4-Hat 910-798-7675, email Elizabeth_stratton@ncsu.edu or visit our website at newhanover.ces.ncsu.edu and like us on Facebook at New Hanover County 4-H or stop by to see us at 6206 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, NC.