A day in the life: Sound Rivers' water-quality specialist

Education, Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Stormwater Issues, Stormwater Restoration Projects, Tar-Pamlico Watershed, Water Quality

Posted on June 1st, 2023

Water Quality Specialist Taylor Register takes a water sample at one of the less hard-to-reach sampling sites.

We’ve had a few new staff members come on board of late, and as part of the Sound Rivers team, they’re filling newly created positions, such as “Water-Quality Specialist.”

Taylor Register takes a turbidity reading on a stormy day.

But what does a water-quality specialist DO? We thought we’d let our Water-Quality Specialist Taylor Register tell you in her own words some, but by no means all, of what she does for Sound Rivers and to monitor and protect your waterways.

Q: Can you give us an example of what a water-quality specialist does?

A: I’ve been doing biweekly sampling out on Runyon Creek in Washington for the past two months now. Runyon Creek is a small tributary of the Tar-Pamlico that is considered impaired due to high volumes of stormwater runoff and pollutant and nutrient loading. The sampling that I’ve been doing is to provide support for our goal of getting a 9 Element Watershed Restoration Plan established for Runyon Creek, which would eventually help to improve water quality for the area. 

Q: What type of sampling are you doing and why?

A: I’ve been collecting water samples to test for E. coli levels and am also using a YSI (digital water quality meter) to measure both physical and chemical parameters in the creek. This routine testing is important because it allows us to create a baseline data profile of expected water-quality conditions so we can identify any problem areas. Basically, it helps us know what levels to expect under both normal and heavy rainfall conditions. Things like dissolved oxygen, turbidity and levels of fecal bacteria are heavily influenced by high rainfall amounts, so by testing in all weather conditions, we can determine exactly what are the normal fluctuations for this particular creek — and what is indicative of an underlying pollution problem. 

Q: Have you run across anything odd or unusual in your sampling?

A: Most of the sites I’ve been sampling have been super-difficult for me to access. One of my sites is underneath a bridge on the 264 overpass, and I have to bring a machete with me to cut away briars to just get down to the water. Something that has stood out to me so far is how smelly and murky most of my sites are. One site in particular absolutely reeks of wet dog, and when I put my equipment in the water it immediately disappears because the water is so full of stuff. Sure enough, that same site had E. coli levels that were three times higher than the limit! 

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