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Water quality monitoring project sheds new light on pollution problem

A new research project by the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) is shedding new light on pollution problems.

The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays developed a monitoring plan for the Inland Bay last year, updating a plan developed in the late 1990's.

“So one of the key recommendations of that monitoring plan was to establish a network throughout the tributaries of the Inland Bays of continuous monitoring stations," said Marianne Walch, the Center’s science and restoration coordinator. "So what those are - are stations that have equipment that measures different water quality conditions every 30 minutes, 24-hours-a-day.” 


Walch notes that data from those five stations is now coming in, allowing the Center to learn more about water quality and environmental conditions in the Inland Bays.


For example, Walch says extremely low oxygen levels were seen during several recent fish kills in the Rehoboth and Indian River Bays.


She points out that intense algae blooms, driven by nutrient pollution and agricultural and urban runoff, are common in the bays and can lead to low oxygen levels.


Data collected between June  and October 2020 found oxygen levels in the upper Indian River failed to meet the state’s water quality standard for dissolved oxygen on 75% of mornings. And similar conditions are showing up this year.


The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays is partnering with the University of Delaware on this project. They plan to install additional stations this year and next to collect more data.

The data will be part of the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays’ five-year update to its State of the Inland Bays Report.


Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.