Category Archives: Water Quality

Greenway Network monitors every place a road crosses Dardenne Creek

photos by Bob Virag, Stream Team volunteer
words by Larry Ruff, Greenway Network 

Dardenne Creek is 27 miles long.  It originates in Warren County, flows northwest through St. Charles County and empties into the Mississippi River directly north of St. Peters.  It is a pretty creek in its headwaters–Ozarkian in nature.

ST 463 Dardenne Day 10-12-14-A little rain doesn't stop us!
Monica Hull, Larry Ruff, and Matt Hull kick around looking for macroinvertebrates on October 12, 2014. A little rain doesn’t stop us!

In the ’20s and ’30s, farmers channelized the creek in the flatter regions of the county. Those farms have become hundreds of subdivision neighborhoods. It crosses I-70 at St. Peters and runs through he Mississippi River floodplain. Every where a road crosses the creek, Greenway Network tries to monitor that site.

Lindenwood Univ student volunteers
Lindenwood University students enjoying lunch provided by Greenway Network after the stream monitoring.
Gail Johnston ST 2819 & Larry Ruff ST 463
Gail Johnston is a Biology instructor at Lindenwood University (ST 2819) in St. Charles and always brings students to Dardenne Day.

We’ve been doing Dardenne Day for at least 14 years. Monitoring takes place in the Spring and the Fall. This year, Dardenne Day was part of 25 Days of Stream Team.

In the Spring: 19 sites on the creek were monitored by 29 volunteers, 9 different Stream Teams.

In the Fall: 16 sites monitored by 10 volunteers, 5 Stream Teams.

Curious about how all these site visits turned out? Download results here and see for yourself! Macro ratings ranged from 0 to 25, pH hovered around 8.2, and they even logged e. coli numbers. Very interesting.

If you want to get involved with Dardenne Day or any of the other great events put on all year by Greenway Network, visit their website.

Snail Case Maker Caddisfly (Helicopsychidae)
Snail Case Maker Caddisfly (Helicopsychidae)



One Fish, Two Fish, Brave Fish, Tasty Fish. Lots of fish news this week.

photo from Michigan Sea Grant

When we monitor streams, we give a lot of love to the Macroinvertebrates, but skeletal creatures indicate water quality, too! Here’s a roundup of trials and comebacks our fish buddies have gone through lately. Check out these links; You might be suprised what you learn.

Brave New Fish. Nancy Gross reports a curious new finding on the Water Effiency editor’s blog :

A study published by researchers at Umeå University “showed that remnants of oxazepam, a drug used for anxiety, resulted in braver and more curious activity among normally timid fish. Individuals exposed to the drug examined their surroundings more freely than normally,” the Helsinki Times recently recently reported

Good: sturgeon return. Bad: rockfish fall. Ugly: a killer plant comes back to the bay. Washington Post’s Darryl Fears outlines the perils of living in Chesapeake Bay:

It is a sign of troubling times in America’s largest estuary, even in the midst of an aggressive anti-pollution effort that is in its fourth year. The bay is beset by man-made waste and overfishing. And it is laced with diseases that take the lives of countless oysters and striped bass and with chemicals that are changing the sex of male smallmouth bass.

But the sturgeon is a sign that the bay can recover. And even though the numbers of striped bass are down, they’re not at the historic lows of the mid-1980s, when several states were forced to halt fishing to help them recover.

Great Lakes States to Track Asian Carp and Prepare for Future Invasions. Kaye LaFond of freshwater news source Circle of Blue reports:


The less threatening nature of the grass carp gives various state, federal, and provincial agencies from around the Great Lakes a unique opportunity to practice for what would be a true emergency: the establishment of silver or bighead carp in Lake Erie or other Great Lakes waterways.

Battle over caviar production rages in Missouri, Oklahoma. Published earlier this year, but no less timely, Al Jazeera ran this story by Missouri’s own Ryan Schuessler:

 Decades ago, the international caviar market was on the verge of collapse. In the years leading up to and following the demise of the Soviet Union, beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea were overfished. By the late ’80s, they were on the verge of extinction and became a protected species. Demand for the delicacy remained high, supply plummeted and prices soared.

Half a world away in the Missouri Ozarks, Jim Kahrs, Steve and Pete’s father, saw that as an opportunity and became one of the early players in the American caviar market, turning his family-run fishery into an international caviar exporter.

Got any fish news of your own? Leave us a comment on this post! But please — no fishing tales.

Everything you need to know about the Midwest’s fresh water mussels

Once again, here’s a warm welcome to the MObugs blog genius Shelly Cox . She’s been kind enough to share some of her writing on aquatic insects with the whole Stream Team community. Go check out her blog, which features really beautiful, exclusive photos, and a lot of  insider knowledge on the whole bug community.

This past 4th of July we spent an evening at the farm. We enjoyed a cookout, great friends and fireworks. The kids swam in the pond and soon discovered mussels underfoot. They grabbed up hundreds of them and placed them in a 5 gallon bucket. They were having fun finding them. I decided I wanted to try and cook some. So I kept 20 or so, and threw the rest back into the pond. I brought the mussels home and soaked them in water for a few hours, and then sauteed them in butter, onion and some seasoning. They were not near as good as I had hoped for. They maintained a muddy taste from the muddy bottom of the pond. I suppose if I had soaked them for a longer period to time it could have helped. If anyone has prepared these with success, please let me in on the secret.

As you can see the kids were having fun diving for mussels in our pond. What a great way to spend a hot summer day!

There are hundreds of fresh water mussels in the World, and nearly 300 of them live in North America. In fact North America is home to the largest variety of mussels compared to anywhere else in the World. Many are in threat of becoming endangered, in fact the estimate is as high as 3/4 of the known species may be in peril. As many as 35 species have already gone extinct. The Midwestern portion of the United States contains the highest concentration of species, Missouri alone is home to some 65 species. Native Americans utilized mussels as an important part of their diet. Not only were they a valuable food source for tribes throughout the Midwest, but they also held value in other ways. The shells were used for tempering pottery and tools, they also made jewelry, and utensils. In the late 1800’s “white man” recognized the potential value of the shells in the fashion industry. The button industry reached a boon during this time in history and many mussels were collected for the “mother-of-pearl” and sold to the button factories. The epicenter for the button industry was right in the good old Midwest. Continue reading Everything you need to know about the Midwest’s fresh water mussels

Bathroom products vs. clean water: why Illinois banned microbeads

AP photo courtesy 5gyres

Our nation’s waterways have a new threat, and it might be lurking on your bathroom counter.

Plastic microbeads–found in many health and beauty products including face washes and toothpaste–are turning up in water systems everywhere, from Los Angeles rivers, to Arctic seas, to Midwest lakes, to coastal bays. That’s bad news for aquatic life, which mistake the beads for eggs and other food.

Here’s the latest news  on what scientists are learning about these tiny balls o’ petrochemicals, and who’s taming their spread.

With Concern For Environment, Illinois Bans Microbeads. By Cheryl Corley for NPR.

photo by Flickr user gentlemanrook

“Scientists say after fish and other organisms eat the tiny bits of plastic — usually listed as polyethylene or polypropylene on labels — toxins could be passed on to humans and wildlife.

“The Illinois law bans the manufacture of microbeads in consumer products by the end of 2017. Some companies, like Johnson & Johnson, are already phasing them out in facial cleansers and other products and are testing alternatives.”

‘Microplastics’ imperil marine life in Tampa Bay, worldwide. By Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Eckerd crew has consistently found about 150 particles of microplastics per gallon sampled.

…Some of the microplastics could be coming from the sewage plants that still dump treated waste into the bay.

[Plants] have made great strides in preventing nitrogen from flowing into the bay from their waste stream, Greening said, but nobody has given any thought to screening out microplastics. Hastings said doing so “would be very, very difficult and expensive.”

Researchers finding plastic in water samples from Great Lakes. By Dana Massing for the Erie Times-News.

“If it’s in the water, ultimately it’s in us,” said Mason, an associate professor of chemistry at the State University of New York at Fredonia. “We need to stop putting these chemicals into the water.”

Think you might be part of the problem? There’s an app for that.

Download Plastic Soup Foundation’s Beat the Microbead App. Scan a barcode before you purchase a cosmetic, and it will tell you whether it contains microplastics. You could also just look for polyethylene or polypropylene in the ingredients list.

Hey, if you need exfoliating action, that’s A-OK. Simply choose products using crushed walnut shells, oats, or poppy seeds–organic alternatives that are way better than plastic.

A VWQM Journey on Bryant Creek

photo by Flickr user jeff yielding

This article is a mashup of two pieces first published on Stream Team volunteer George Sims’ blog, The Bugs of Popo Agie His group has worked hard to protect Bryant Creek, including a mile-by-mile water quality assessment report. Big thanks to George for sharing his story!

April 2, 2013 – “Down the Creek Without a Paddle”

John and Sue and I put our kayaks and canoe in at the “Monastery Bridge” in Douglas County, only a mile or so from Assumption Abbey, a Trappist monastery, and paddled over ten miles downstream to the Highway 95 bridge, just below the Ozark County line.

In addition to enjoying a great day of sun, fun, and good companionship, we were conducting chemical monitoring of the stream at one-mile intervals as part of the State of Missouri’s Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring (VWQM) program.  This endeavour provides free training to individuals, enabling them, in the Introductory training, to learn to identify “aquatic macroinvertebrates” (bug larva) as indicators of water quality.

John is a Level 3 monitor, so he provided the “adult supervision” for Sue and me.  Our Master Naturalist chapter, based in West Plains, developed an ambitious project in 2010, whereby we would monitor every mile of the 42+ mile, floatable portion of Bryant Creek, from the Vera Cruz MDC (Missouri Conservation Department) access, down to the confluence of Bryant with the North Fork of the White River at Tecumseh.


We divided the stream into four sections, with a team leader responsible for each segment.  As my segment was substantially longer than the others, John and Sue graciously lent their help in covering almost 2/3 of the nearly 18-mile stretch.

Early on, we passed a crystalline spring, which issued from a cave on the left hillside, tumbling over mossy rocks down to the creek.

The temperatures rose to nearly 80 during the day, and I only managed to sink my kayak TWICE, an improvement of 33% over last year’s outing, although I DID manage to lose my paddle in the process.  Fortunately, John had brought an extra, so I was not left to live in the wilderness, eating lichens, and slowly starving and turning feral.
We sampled twelve sites, and managed to reach the take-out point just as darkness descended.  All the data was organized, and submitted electronically to the Missouri Stream Team program, a truly wonderful undertaking, which involves over 4,000 volunteer “stream teams” which clean, monitor, and enjoy Missouri’s beautiful waterways.
A truly great way to spend a day, with good friends, a beautiful stream, and a worthwhile reason to be there.
With apologies to Anne Murray:
Can you imagine a piece of the universe more fit for princes and kings?
I’ll trade you ten of your cities for my Bryant Creek, and the pleasures it brings.
Out on the Bryant, on soft summer nights,
Bonfires blaze, to the children’s delight.
They dance ’round the flames, singing songs with their friends,
I wish I was with them again.

Bryant Creek is part of the North Fork of the White River Watershed, and is a lovely place to fish, swim, or float.  All water quality data is submitted to the State of Missouri’s Stream Team program, and is also compiled into an ongoing report, complete with data, graphs, bells and whistles.The complete text of the report, through 2012, is given in pdf form at the link below. 

BCAP Ongoing Report

Happy Stormwater Awareness Month!

Photo from Chesapeake Bay Program

May is Stormwater Awareness Month! Non-point source pollution, or water contaminants from multiple or hard-to-identify sources,  can cause a lot of problems in streams.

Unfortunately, Missouri streams are no exception. Urban runoff carries pollutants such as oil, dirt, chemicals, and lawn fertilizers directly to streams and rivers, while agricultural runoff can include sediment, nutrients, pathogens, pesticides, metals, and salts.

While regulations are helping to curb these impacts, you can certainly help by doing your part. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Take time out to stencil storm drains, install a rain barrel or rain garden at your home, school, or business.
  • Cleanup after your car when it spills oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, or other substances.
  • Go to a car wash or wash your car over grass or gravel instead of on the pavement (why this is important).
  • Educate your community about the connection between stormwater and streams.

Do you have other tips for preventing stormwater runoff? Tell us in the comments!

Monitor Dardenne Creek with Greenway Network on May 4

Activities: Help monitor water quality on Dardenne Creek with Greenway Network for the annual Dardenne Creek Monitoring Day
greenwaynetworkDate: Sunday, May 5, 2014
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Place: 20+ sites along Dardenne Creek, with a celebratory end at Greenway Network’s office at 215 Indacom Drive, St. Peters

What to expect: Arrange sampling locations with Greenway Network ahead of time. Stream Team volunteers will collect water chemistry data, macroinvertebra​te data, and stream discharge measurements throughout the day. If you’re a newbie, Greenway will connect you with trained volunteers.

Bring the data back to Greenway Network’s office at 215 Indacom Drive, St. Peters, MO by 1:00 p.m.  A tasty lunch of Subway sandwiches and drinks will be provided to all participants!

What to bring: Always dress appropriately for the weather and please bring gloves that you do not mind getting dirty. Volunteers need to bring their monitoring equipment (unless you’re paired with a trained volunteer).

For more information: Contact Larry Ruff at greenwaynetwork​ or call (636) 498-0772 to register and arrange site locations.


For more information, visit www.greenwaynet​

25th-ST_Logo-Color-FinalThis volunteer water quality monitoring event  is part of “25 Days of Stream Team” and counts as a stamp on your stream team passport if you submit an activity report. Learn more about all 25+ events and the passport program

7 Reasons to do Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring

Happy Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring month! Did you remember to send a card to your favorite VWQM coordinator?

March is the perfect time to break into water quality monitoring. Spring is in the air, the weather’s getting milder, and workshops are popping up like mushrooms . . . well-planned, educational mushrooms that give you food and free equipment.

Other than a solid excuse to get outdoors, monitoring streams is a rewarding act of citizen science. We’ve compiled some reasons to get involved. If you think of more, please leave us a comment at the bottom of the page!

1. For a few magic hours, you get to be a SCIENTIST.

DSCF0905Hey, life takes us on lots of turns. Maybe you’re an artist who enjoys seeing the seasons change. Maybe you’re an investment banker who had a blast as a kid playing with science kits. Maybe water quality monitoring is your job, but you love your job, so you just want to do more of it.

If you give Stream Team one or two weekends of your time, we will make you all into scientists. You will learn about macroinvertebrates (all the little bugs that call your favorite stream “home”), hydrology (the movement of water), water chemistry (how to identify pollutants), and physical monitoring (assessing the plants and pavement around your site). You can spread the knowledge (show off) to friends and family when you monitor, or even just as you hang out on a sandbar during your next float trip. But that’s not all… Continue reading 7 Reasons to do Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring

Road Salt Roundup

photo by Flickr user J.C. Burns

With all the snow and ice Missouri’s seen this month, it sure does make one wonder where all that road salt goes. Here are just a few articles to get you up to speed on what slows ice down.

Public Radio International’s “Living on Earth” magazine presents their Road Salt Report. Ashley Ahearn reports.

One recent National Academy of Sciences study shows that salt concentration in fresh water is on the rise in Maryland, New Hampshire and New York due to road salting and could make groundwater in many areas of the Northeast un-drinkable within a century.

But don’t let that get you down! Here’s one solution: A sensor detects salt on the road to avoid excess. A report from Spain on

The sensor is capable of measuring the luminescent properties of sodium chloride (its range and decay time), which enables concentrations of salt lower than 20 g/m2 – the quantity it is recommended not to exceed – to be detected.

And then there’s beet juice. Washington, D.C. spent $18,000 on beet juice to pretreat its roads, and Delaware roads also “took a beeting.” (Their bad pun, not ours.)

Walerstein said the company buys its sugar beets from American growers, including farms in northern Ohio and Michigan.

See also:

“Winters in wintry cities remain salty year-round” by for the Great Lakes Echo.

An oldie but goodie: “Environmental Impact of Road Salt and Alternatives in New York” by William Wegner and Marc Yaggi.

Two stories Jan Ellen Spiegel: “Dumping plowed snow into bodies of water raises a few environmental issues” and “Between a rock (salt) and a hard place.”

Are there any Missouri counties or cities out there practicing alternatives? What do you use for your sidewalk? Let us know in the comments!

Water pollution and solutions news roundup

Photo by Flickr user Angelina :).

Could your driveway be poisoning your kids? Robert McClure of Investigate West writes for QUEST.

Car tires, rain, foot traffic, snowplows, and the freeze/thaw cycle all cause tiny bits of the sealant to “abrade,” as scientists say. Little bits of the black stuff flake off. Other studies have shown that the runoff from the coal tar-sealed lots harms critters in freshwater streams where it ends up, affecting their development and reproduction and reducing the populations and the number of species able to live in affected streams.

Microbeads a major problem in L.A. River. By Louis Sahagun for the L.A. Times.

The tiny polyethylene and polypropylene beads are an emerging concern among scientists and environmentalists. The beads come mostly from personal care products such as facial exfoliants and body washes. They are not biodegradable, however, and because they are not removed easily by wastewater treatment plants, they flow out to sea and enter the food chain.

Residents Race To Save Urban Wetlands as Puerto Rican Estuary Faces Dire Pollution Problem. By Danica Coto of AP in Huffington Post.

More than 12,600 pounds (5,700 kilograms) of trash was pulled out of the San Juan Bay Estuary in just a few hours that recent weekend morning, evidence of the enormous scale of the problem, but perhaps also a sign that things might improve. A plan to rescue this urban wetland, which is still a vital habitat and prime tarpon fishing ground despite the pollution, is a priority for the administration of Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, in part to bring more tourists and needed revenue to the gritty capital of the U.S. island territory.

River’s contaminated sediment targeted in EPA cleanup plan. By Jim Kasuba for The News-Herald in Southgate, Mich.

Most of the industries that lined the Detroit River are long gone, but the pollution they left behind remains to this day. It took decades to contaminate the river to a point where wildlife and human health have been affected, but it could take just as long to clean it all up.

Your turn: Do you have a piece of news you’d like to see covered in the next news roundup? Leave us a comment and we’ll put it in the next roundup!