A mobile water quality van, obtained by the Association of sea bream fishermen with a grant from Impact 100, will enable conservationists to quickly and accurately monitor the health of local waterways while educating children about the importance of protecting the environment.

Barbara Albrecht, director of the Panhandle Watershed Alliance and president of the Bream Fishermen Association, said she plans to use the van to monitor not just coastal waterways, but also rivers, streams and streams in areas. rural.

“We’re going to go to these little communities there and say to the kids, ‘Where’s your favorite pool?’ And you know, in places like McDavid and Century, they don’t drive to the beach, they go to the creeks and creeks,” she said. “And we can go to the swimming holes in their corner of the country and take water samples.”

Barbara Albrecht with the Bream Fishermen Association, a citizen water quality monitoring and surveillance group established in the late 1960s, takes water samples at Bayview Park on Sunday, September 8, 2019.

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While providing an educational experience, Albrecht also plans to alert young people to very real dangers.

“The problem is their swimming holes might not be safe to swim in,” she said. “If that’s the case, we wish we could turn around and say, ‘There’s too much turbidity in this swimming hole because some developers haven’t installed a silt fence.'”

Erosion fencing is a means by which people engaged in land clearing or development activities prevent soil from flowing off a property and into nearby waterways, and turbidity occurs when soil enters these streams and literally clouds the water.

The Association of sea bream fishermen was founded in the mid-1960s and is committed to championing water quality in Northwest Florida. Albrecht and others have repeatedly sounded the alarm, most recently at Carpenter Creek, over failures to properly prevent pollution of Escambia County’s freshwater ecosystems.

A 2021 Impact 100 grant provided the Bream Fishermen Association and the Sartori Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting boating and sea-related activities, with $101,820 to share. The theme that the two organizations used to present their idea was “Bringing the coast to children. Improving our waterways through science and recreation.

The van, according to the wording of the grant proposal, will be used to “transport students and volunteers and to more effectively sample water from local creeks and streams.”

The data compiled will help the Bream Fishermen Association raise awareness of local water health and “invite active participation and help connect the dots for the next generation.”

Escambia County Environmental Program Manager Dana Morton tests water quality in the watershed off Maggies Ditch Friday, September 20, 2019.

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“We will make this information public and hope that agencies and elected officials will take the reins and correct the problems,” Albrecht said.

COVID, supply chain issues and a sharp rise in the cost of motor vehicles delayed Albrecht’s efforts to find the truck she was looking to convert into a water testing van, but she did. said Sept. 2 that the Bream Fishermen Association had obtained a 2018 Ford Transit van that had been converted into a motorhome.

A $10,000 donation received to “help improve the environment” was used to purchase equipment. Albrecht said she expects the van to be ready to roll by November.

“We will be able to collect water and measure quality, but not everything under the sun,” she said.

The mobile water quality van will give professionals like Albrecht the ability to not only collect samples, but also test area waters for unwanted organics, alkalinity, hardness, nitrogen/ammonia , phosphates and dissolved oxygen.

This is important, according to Albrecht and Carmen Reynoldsmember of the Santa Rosa County Watershed Protection Committee because results can be determined without chain of custody issues or bureaucracy.

The state has shifted from allowing professionals to do the field work required to assess water quality to handing the job over to those appointed by the governor, Albrecht said.

“The people in charge of enforcing the rules don’t want people to know what the problems are,” she said. “Now we don’t have to go through the channels. We can say let’s take a sample. We have the equipment. If we can’t test it ourselves, we can take it somewhere and have it tested. no problem.”

Reynolds said test results from the mobile test van can be counted on to be delivered quickly and reliably.

“It’s an opportunity to see firsthand what’s going on with surface water and drinking water in our area,” she said. “There’s no better time than now to have accessible water sampling that can come to you and do it.”