Citizen Scientists in Muskoka

Test kits give volunteers opportunity to study road salt

PRESS RELEASE (with some Chris O edits/additions)

Volunteers are testing to see how much road salt or chloride is draining as runoff into some Gravenhurst area lakes.

The volunteers, Citizen Scientists from the Gull and Silver Lake Residents’ Association and PROBUS Gravenhurst, are working with Friends of the Muskoka Watershed (FOTMW) to determine how road salt is impacting the Gravenhurst area watershed. They are using scientific water quality testing kits provided by FOTMW.

Studies show that Gravenhurst Bay in Lake Muskoka and Jevins Lake have some of the highest chloride levels of the lakes tested in Muskoka. The low calcium levels Muskoka’s recreational lakes means that all animal life is sensitive to road salt and animal life in 20 per cent of our lakes is suffering from road salt.

Dr. Neil Hutchinson, a volunteer director with FOTMW, has been studying local chloride levels and working with volunteers to determine how the chloride is entering the lakes. FOTWM has selected areas where water flows or drains into the lakes and has volunteers testing the chloride level.

Dr. Hutchinson recently discussed many aspects of the road salt issue on The Chris O Show.

As there are no natural local marine salt deposits in Muskoka, and the lakes with elevated Chloride levels all have major winter-maintained highways in their immediate catchments, road salt is the only logical salt source, according to FOTMW report by Dr. Norman Yan.

Dr. Yan also joined The Chris O Show recently to discuss the amazing waterflea Daphnia, which can help us monitored lake health.

This is a pilot project, but FOTMW plans to roll out a larger program across Muskoka starting in the fall. Once data is gathered, to determine how chloride enters the lakes, the next step is to find solutions and modifications which can involve the whole community.

Friends of the Muskoka Watershed is a charity that pairs action-based approaches with innovative science-based solutions to protect the environment. The organization has become known in the community for their citizen science and ASHMuskoka projects.

“We couldn’t do this work without our volunteers, “says Hutchinson. “It is so important to have the community involved, and helping to make a difference.”

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