The Credit River
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UTM Environment department to monitor Credit River
By Adam Giles

While UTM professors monitor the progress of students and campus police monitor the safety of everyone on campus, the Environment department will soon monitor the Credit River.

This summer, environment professor Barbara Murck initiated the Credit River Monitoring Station and Learning Centre project.

The station, which will measure the quality and temperature of the river, received funding from various sources including the Ministry of Energy, Science, and Technology (MEST), Rotary Clubs of Mississauga, and the UTM sciences department.

Murck said the monitoring station is unique because it will post its readings as they are received – in real-time.

“Once established, the Center will provide information about the aquatic environment in the lower Credit watershed in real-time, through an on-line, public-access web site,” she said.

“It’s exciting. I’ve only been able to find one other web site out there that reports water quality data in real-time: The University of Connecticut Network of Monitoring site for Long Island Sound. I could really see us establishing a site much like this one, with the same kind of links and information, but customized for the Credit River watershed and Lake Ontario. I bet it would be the only one of its kind in Canada. Most other sites seem to report only archived water quality data and a few report flow data in real-time.”

The project built momentum after receiving funding from MEST’s “Invest in Youth” programme, which covered costs of equipment, a server, and salary for one person.

Murck hired Sangeeta Pabla to work as an educational coordinator as part of her environmental Masters programme. Then the project moved into a small, concrete hut owned by Credit Valley Conservation (CVC).

“This is primarily an Erindale project, but we’ll work in cooperation with CVC because they are interested in the data and they put in flow monitoring equipment,” Murck said.

Geography Lab Technician, Ken Turner, said the monitoring station will use a probe (called a sonde) to continuously measure levels of pH, conductivity (salts in the water), and chloride in the Credit River as well as the temperature of the water.

Different sensors can be added to the sonde to measure other things like dissolved oxygen and turbidity in the water. Turner said there are a lot of potential benefits from this information.

“A number of government agencies are interested in seeing the numbers we get. The station will be especially helpful if an environmental catastrophe ever happens upstream: We’d be able to identify the nature of it and when it passes through the Erindale Park area. The data collected can be used by a lot of people,” he said.

“The sonde will be in the water 24 hours, seven days a week and it will have the potential to continuously monitor the water. It used to be if you wanted readings of water quality, you had to collect data one, two, or three times a day and that was your data for the day. You never really got a continuous, minute-to-minute measure.”

Murck agreed that the monitoring station will enhance education about water quality in the Credit River.

“It should increase the general availability and awareness of environmental information,” she said. Murck added that there may be opportunities for students to get involved with the monitoring station through the second-year Research Opportunities Programme (ENV299Y).

“The facility will give students a chance to learn about the aquatic environment and the Credit watershed and to be exposed to cutting-edge environmental techniques and technologies,” she said.

Turner said the equipment is still in the process of being set up at the station.

“We’re getting the equipment calibrated now. We’re still feeling our way through everything. There are concerns about damage to the equipment even though the station is in a lonely location,” he said.

“Some of the things we don’t know yet are: whether or not the sonde will get yanked out of place after a heavy rainfall or if things will get tampered with.”