Recruiting Volunteers for Weekly Water Monitoring

Mountain Watershed Association will be holding a Volunteer Training Day for water quality sampling on April 12th at 2pm at MWA’s office in Melcroft, PA. At the training, volunteers will learn how to collect bacteria samples at popular swimming holes and be introduced to our new volunteer supply and drop off station. No experience is required to be a volunteer. 

For swimmable waters, samples are collected during the day on a Wednesday each week and must be turned into MWA’s office within 6 hours of when you collected your first sample, by 4pm at the latest. Each volunteer usually donates about 3 hours each week as they travel their chosen sampling route. The new volunteer supply station will help with drop off as you can now turn in the samples without staff being present. 

MWA will then incubate the samples volunteers collect, analyze the results and post the quality of the water on our website here and on swim guide so that those swimming on the weekend can make an informed decision before getting in the water.

MWA Americorps, Sarah, collecting a bacteria sample

During the training, a new “routes” map and sign up will be made available for different areas of the Youghiogheny River watershed. You will be able to select a preferred route that day. 

We will also be implementing a new incentive for sampling volunteers. Each time you volunteer, you will receive 1 raffle ticket for a chance to win outdoor recreation gear. 

You may ask, what kind of bacteria is MWA looking for at popular swimming holes?

MWA is looking for what is commonly known as E.coli or Escherichia coli. E.coli is a rod-shaped bacterium commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms including humans and animals. There are hundreds of strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli, however, one particular strain, O157:H7, is an emerging cause of foodborne and waterborne illness. Beaches and other designated swimming locations are tested regularly, but swimmers in non-designated areas (swimming holes, locations along the river) swim at their own risk.

A sample bottle at King’s Covered Bridge

Through our Swimmable Waters program, MWA travels to “non-designated” swimming holes and tests their water quality weekly. You can access our water quality data on our website every week during Swimmable Waters season to make sure you’re swimming in locations with low levels of E. coli bacteria. The Swimmable Waters season in Pennsylvania runs from May 1st to September 30th. 

We hope to see you at MWA’s training day on April 12th and throughout the summer as we help our community make informed decisions about where they’re swimming.