EWHS students launch Stream Team effort to monitor water quality

Rondi Nordwal
Rondi Nordal, right, starts off the presentation while other members of Students Saving Salmon await their turns at the microphone. From left, Lindsey Barnes, Pavi Chance and Afua Tiwaa.

Among the items at Tuesday night’s Edmonds City Council meeting was a presentation by four Edmonds-Woodway High School students, all members of the Students Saving Salmon club, about their plan to monitor the conditions of three Edmonds streams and the Edmonds Marsh.

The four — Rondi Nordal, Pavi Chance, Afua Tiwaa and Lindsey Barnes — will be part of a Stream Team created through a partnership with the City of Edmonds, EarthCorps, Sound Salmon Solutions and local community members interested in salmon and environmental issues.

Called a Citizen Science program, the idea is to collect high-quality scientific information on water quality and use the resulting data to engage in community efforts to address stormwater and pollution issues in Edmonds streams and their effects on salmon. The program is supported by grants from the Hubbard Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Google grants.

Assisting with the effort are Val Stewart, an Edmonds Planning Board member and founder of Students Saving Salmon, EWHS biology teacher David Millette and Assistant Principal Geoff Bennett, and retired NOAA fisheries biologist Joe Scordino.

Stewart explained that the City of Edmonds has several creeks draining into Puget Sound that may support salmon, and the city is currently evaluating the feasibility of restoring the Edmonds Marsh to provide juvenile salmon rearing habitat by daylighting Willow Creek, which flows into the marsh. Unfortunately, there is little or no data on the quality of the water in Edmonds streams including Willow Creek and Shellabarger Creek, which also drains into the marsh, nor Shell Creek which currently supports some coho salmon spawning.

Since much of the stormwater in Edmonds drains into Puget Sound through streams, there are concerns about the quality of water in Edmonds streams and potential effects of pollutants on salmon and the stream environment. Recent studies have demonstrated that stormwater can be lethal to salmon; thus this program was developed to determine the quality of stream water in Edmonds.

With assistance from teachers and experienced volunteers, the students will collect water quality samples once a month year-round from all four locations — Willow, Shell and Shellabarger Creeks, and Edmonds Marsh.  Sampling sites will be monitored for temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrates and conductivity using a YSI Professional Plus electronic instrument.  Chemical test kits may be used several times a year to measure other water parameters, such as phosphates, alkalinity and hardness) and to compare standard measurements (pH, dissolved oxygen) with the electronic meter.

In addition, water samples for pollutant testing will be collected three to four times per year and during three storm events. Pollutant samples will be sent to a water analysis lab and tested for metals, petroleum products and other pollutants.

EWHS students will report on their efforts through news articles and and directed mailings to streamside property owners. This information will include background information for the public on stormwater issues, restoration of the Edmonds Marsh,
practices for improving water quality in Edmonds streams, and the importance of high quality water and habitat for salmon recovery. Any issues of concern discovered during the water testing process will be shared, and the students will prepare an annual report on the program in May of each year, describing program activities and achievements over the past year.

Students presenting to council said the idea is to make the program long-term, with younger students coming in to the Save Our Salmon Club — which now has 13 members — to replace those who are graduating.

Councilmembers reacted enthusiastically to the presentation, and invited the students to come back in the spring to provide an update on their work. Councilmember Kristiana Johnson called the program “a lovely example of how the community can work together,”

“This is going to be a great project for the city,” added Councilmember Lora Petso.

“I’m excited and looking forward to your data,” said Councilmember Mike Nelson.

  1. Thanks, Joe, for your article. And thanks to you, Val, and all of the students and faculty members for focusing on the importance of healthy streams, a healthy estuary, and the value of Puget Sound for a healthy Sound and Pacific Ocean. As streamside property owner on Willow Creek, I look forward to participating in your project and learning with you about the condition of our watershed.

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