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Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Project

There are times when some sections of Leesville Lake exceed one or more of the state water quality standards. Some of the exceedances are a result of the natural aging process in the reservoir and others are a result of human activity.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) monitors Leesville Lake water quality. However, water quality monitoring by DEQ is on a three-year rotation. The current rotation ends in 2006, so DEQ will not monitor Leesville Lake water quality again until 2010. In addition, there are too few DEQ monitoring stations to get an adequate understanding of bacteria levels in the lake. Therefore, the Leesville Lake Association (LVLA) plans to initiate a Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Project in 2007.

The goals of the project are to:

Obtain a better understanding of Leesville Lake water quality.

Supplement the DEQ water quality monitoring.

Raise the awareness of the importance of water quality.

Water Quality Parameters

During 2007, the following water quality parameters will be monitored:


Secchi Depth


Dissolved Oxygen




High counts of fecal coliform bacteria in a stream or lake indicate that fecal matter has entered the water presenting the potential risk to human health. Fecal coliform bacteria are found in the fecal matter of all warm-blooded animals. The primary sources of bacteria in Leesville Lake and its tributaries are cattle and wildlife, but pets and failed septic systems can also be significant contributors. Escherichia coli (E. Coli) became the official standard statewide for bacteria in January 2003. The Virginia instantaneous E. coli standard is 235 colony forming units (cfu) per 100 ml of water.

The “Coliscan” method will be used for detection of E. coli in the citizen monitoring project. Coliscan is technically very simple to perform and requires no expensive equipment. The citizen monitor simply collects a sample of water at each monitoring station; uses a sterile dropper to place a water sample into a bottle of liquid Coliscan medium; and then pours the Coliscan plus water sample into a sterile Petri dish. The Petri dish is pretreated with a chemical that causes the liquid Coliscan to solidify into a gel after 60–90 minutes at room temperature. After the medium has solidified, the plate can be incubated at 37 C (about 100 F) for 24-36 hours and then analyzed.

A paper titled “Escherichia Coli Monitoring with Coliscan” is attached. It provides more

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