Creekwatchers’ report shows water quality slippage

Wicomico Environmental Trust and Wicomico Creekwatchers released their 2016 Wicomico River Health report, showing water quality had slipped for the year.

Citizen scientists monitored water quality in 22 sites throughout the river from March to November last year. Findings indicated poor quality compared to 2015, “largely due to the above-normal rainfall at several points in the season.”

“Nitrogen, phosphorous and chlorophyll continue to be at levels that need improvement. Fecal bacteria levels, in particular, are much worse, continuing the trend in 2015,” the report stated.

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day announced that, beginning this year, the City will fully fund Wicomico Creekwatchers through the Wicomico Environmental Trust.

“It is important that we protect the Wicomico River, which is a vital component of this area’s economic and environmental climate,” said Bob Hocutt, president of the Wicomico Environmental Trust. “I also want to thank the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore for their willingness to fund the good work that is done each year by the Wicomico Creekwatchers”

Dr. Judith Stribling, scientific coordinator for annual water samplings of the waterway, said she hoped the annual report will “serve as a guide for showing areas on the river that need improvement.”

“Everything we do on the land affects the health of the Wicomico River,” she said.

An SU faculty member who teaches biology, Stribling is retiring.

“She has been the force behind Wicomico Creekwatchers,” said Gains Hawkins, a board member.

“In the last several months, she was looking for a permanent home for it. It will be with Wicomico Environmental Trust. They will coordinate the collection of the water. Salisbury University faculty and students will still be involved. The city and the council will still contribute to the collection and the processing of the samples but WET will be the organization that runs it and keeps in touch with all the creek watchers,” he said.

“The Wicomico River is so important. It’s one of our key natural resources. Salisbury University, Perdue and PRMC are the pillars in the community and the river is a pivotal natural resource. We all kind of take it for granted. It is so pivotal for a lot things we do in our lives – for all the habitats along the river and in the river but also it has an economic component from barges that come in and bring in oil and grain to tourists and recreation,” Hawkins said.

“It is vital that people living along the river appreciate the importance of life along the river,” he said.

Although the annual study indicated water quality in the Wicomico River is below par, there are ways to help. Stribling suggests:

  • Using household products that do not contain dangerous chemicals.
  • Never pouring questionable materials down the drain.
  • Picking up pet waste and disposing of it in the trash or by flushing it.
  • When gardening, watering only when needed, using pesticides sparingly and never using fertilizer within 30 feet of a waterway.
  • Using rain barrels and rain gardens.
  • Recycling bottles, cans, newsprint and jars.
  • Avoiding plastic — it takes 400 and 1,000 years for a plastic bag or bottle to break down, she explained, adding almost 90 percent of garbage in oceans is plastic.

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