Highlight Interview with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper

Spotlight Interview with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper

Posted: September 29, 2022 at 4:15 pm

For this Swim Information Highlight, we reached out to Elizabeth (Liz) Cute, the Senior Group Engagement Supervisor at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper affiliate profile

The place: Buffalo, New York USA

Variety of areas: 9

Variety of websites: 27

Sampling season: Sampling season begins Victoria Day Weekend and ends Labour Day Weekend

Sampling frequency: Collected weekly at minimal

Swim Information Affiliate since: 2012

*This interview has been edited for size and readability.

Danica: Thanks for assembly with me. If we may simply begin off with you getting a private introduction after which explaining a bit about your present position at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper?


Liz: My identify is Liz Cute. I’m a Senior Group Engagement Supervisor at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. Our workplaces are primarily based in Buffalo, New York, however our work focuses extra broadly on the Niagara River watershed. I’ve a background in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Science and an artwork minor. So I get to make the most of either side of my mind right here at Waterkeeper, the place I coordinate our Riverwatch citizen science program, the place we do a number of the water monitoring and testing. 

I additionally work quite a bit on our Youth Environmental Schooling programming and a few of our coverage and advocacy work. And inside that, I get to do some enjoyable graphics and design. In a nonprofit, you get to do a number of various things, which retains it very enjoyable and thrilling. I’m not initially from Western New York, however I’ve a Nice Lakes background; I’m from the Higher Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. So I’ve all the time had a deep connection to our Nice Lakes and our freshwater sources however now switching gears to extra of an city space. I’ve realized quite a bit in regards to the completely different air pollution sources and impacts on our waterways right here in comparison with a extra rural headwaters location, up within the UP. That’s been actually nice to find out about. I’ve been capable of make the most of that to coach our group in regards to the points going through our waterways and the way they can assist be stewards of our waterways or assist us accumulate information in order that we will higher perceive what’s happening. 


Danica: That’s tremendous fascinating. Might you go into the distinction within the issues that you simply’d see in a rural space versus a extra city metropolis atmosphere?


Liz: Yeah. And I imply, we do see these points in our watershed itself. With our workplaces being within the metropolis, I get to see that extra firsthand. We do have some rural points in our watershed headwaters. There’s agricultural air pollution, or typically there’s a number of mining points or livestock that introduce pollution in a few of these rural areas. In our city areas, we see stormwater runoff bringing in several types of air pollution from our impervious surfaces, bringing in a number of city stormwater air pollution and mixed sewer overflows (CSOs). We see that in our city areas right here in Buffalo since we’re an outdated rust belt metropolis with older infrastructure and so we now have CSOs. That’s what a portion of our Riverwatch program is trying to get a greater understanding of right here in Western New York, by way of when there’s moist climate, how are these CSOs impacting water high quality and does that impression the security of water customers by way of recreation.

Danica: Would you say that the most important subject that your watershed faces are CSOs?


Liz: Stormwater runoff basically. In city areas, it is perhaps CSOs however in rural areas, the stormwater air pollution/runoff is perhaps impacting the waterways in another way by way of nutrient air pollution instantly from the land, not entering into the stormwater system. However stormwater runoff is a large one.


Danica: It’s superior that you simply’re all doing that work, particularly when you think about how many individuals depend on the Nice Lakes as ingesting water. 


Liz: Ingesting water, boating, recreation. We’re all making contact with it a method or one other.


Danica: Yeah, for certain. We’re undoubtedly fortunate to have the Nice Lakes. I used to be your web site and was questioning in case you may speak about Scajaquada September.


Liz: Each September for the final couple of years, we’ve been celebrating Scajaquada September, and that may be a creek in our city space right here simply north of town. We prefer to name it our second Buffalo River. Our group grew to become what it’s due to the cleanup of the Buffalo River. We’ve completed a number of restoration work on that river and there are nonetheless some elements of cleanup wanted however now we’re form of shifting to the following most polluted waterway in our area, which is Scajaquada Creek; it has a number of points. There’s an expressway constructed over prime of it, bringing in a number of stormwater runoff and air pollution. There are CSOs getting into the waterway; there’s legacy air pollution and contaminated sediment. Within the suburbs, there are sanitary sewer points. Additionally it is channelized and buried underground for a number of miles; there’s a shopping center constructed over prime of it. So it has a number of issues impacting it, however it additionally goes via a number of actually vital communities the place due to these points, these of us aren’t capable of take pleasure in their native waterway of their group. It’s buried underground, or it’s not protected to fish or to recreate on, so we’re actually hoping to accomplice with completely different municipalities and organizations to supervise a holistic restoration. Scajaquada September is our solution to actually focus our power and a spotlight on this creek and convey folks in to find out about these points and our imaginative and prescient to get impressed to assist us alongside the way in which to make adjustments and to get it to the place it may be. We do some cleanups the place we’ll be choosing up plastic litter and amassing information on that. We do some lunch and learns so that people can be taught in regards to the historical past of the waterway. We’ll do a enjoyable scavenger hunt exercise getting of us out and about and exploring. So a number of enjoyable issues are taking place.

Danica: That may be a actually cool solution to get everyone linked to the waterbody. So clearly that’s primarily based on the massive enhancements that you simply all have been capable of make on the Buffalo River. What learnings from that undertaking have you ever taken ahead to implement the opposite creeks and waterbodies that want it?


Liz: We’ve realized quite a bit from the restoration of the Buffalo River. We’ve needed to accomplice with a number of completely different entities. We labored with the Military Corps to do sediment dredging of contaminated sediments. We’ve labored with a number of completely different contractors for upland restoration tasks and the design. So , we’re working with a number of of us; landowners, municipalities, or cities. It’s actually bringing folks collectively to make this occur. It may possibly’t simply be our imaginative and prescient and our purpose, we now have to have the buy-in throughout the board with everybody so we’ve been capable of take that for any of our completely different restoration tasks, even all the way down to what crops will truly thrive and survive in our area. We’ve realized a lot from the Buffalo River and the way to herald the group in all elements of the undertaking from the start to the completion in order that we will all have a good time.


Danica: It’s fascinating what number of completely different elements come into play. Shifting gears a bit, perhaps you may discuss somewhat bit in regards to the tasks you’re employed on particularly and your position inside these tasks?


Liz: I’ll give attention to our Riverwatch packages since that’s the place we’re linked to Swim Information, particularly. Our Riverwatch program is one in all our longest ongoing group engagement packages, we recruit and prepare group volunteers to gather information all through our watershed.

This one has been ongoing for in all probability shut to fifteen years, so we now have a very strong information set from sure waterways. We’ve been capable of increase to extra waterways all through our watershed within the final 5 years or so and begin testing for various issues and amassing information on completely different elements. We do water monitoring beginning in Might, via to the top of October, since we now have a reasonably tough winter right here in Buffalo, in order that’s our water season. 


We’ve a bunch of various alternatives for our volunteers. We’ve our baseline water high quality displays, who use high-tech water high quality probes to gather water chemistry info so the temperature, DO, pH, and conductivity, it’s actually a pulse examine on our waterways. They exit to websites month-to-month; it’ll vary from wherever from 75 websites to upwards of 100 websites relying on the yr and the way issues shake out. We’ve volunteers which might be educated to visually ID dangerous algal blooms, as we see these in a few of our inland waterways, slow-moving creeks and streams, and smaller ponds or lakes in order that we will be alerted and inform our native Division of Environmental Conservation. This fashion we will get communication out to the general public in order that they’ll keep protected and wholesome. We’ve volunteers that accumulate information on plastic air pollution. Particularly, we now have some volunteers centered on nurdles, little plastic pellets, and making an attempt to trace down what the supply of these nurdles is. If we will tie it to a possible polluter, we will attempt to work with them to rectify it to stop future spills or issues like that from taking place. 


We make the most of this information to place out an annual report on the finish of the yr; our Riverwatch Water High quality Report. We additionally add information to our web site; we use water reporter for lots of our information. Our micro organism information is collected by workers due to dealing with occasions and getting samples incubated. They accumulate samples to research for E. coli micro organism and that’s the information that we replace on Swim Information in order that it will likely be accessible to anybody that’s wanting on the app or web site. And our pattern websites are fascinating. We don’t pattern our typical seashores right here in Western New York, the state parks pattern and put out postings for these places. However we now have so many waterways the place we do see folks swimming regardless that it’s not a seashore or there’s a number of contact via kayaking, canoeing, or fishing, or alternative ways and so we’d prefer to know the circumstances of these waterways. 


Danica: Yeah, for certain. It’s such as you mentioned, town’s not essentially testing in all places, and persons are recreating in all places that there’s water, I feel it’s virtually human to wish to work together with it.


Liz: Yeah! So we’re filling that hole with what the state can take a look at for and that’s actually why the Riverwatch program began. In New York State, the DEC (Division of Environmental Conservation) does sampling all through the state on a rotating foundation and so they’re not specializing in Western New York and our watershed yearly. We wish to know the circumstances and the final well being of our waterways yearly so our volunteers assist us accumulate that strong information set in order that we will monitor long run. That helps to affect the place potential restoration tasks happen, or the place we have to focus for various advocacy efforts. So it provides our workers a number of info to make the most of in a number of alternative ways and it’s nice public well being info as effectively.


Danica: For certain, it’s fascinating how a lot somewhat bit of knowledge goes a good distance, particularly with social media and sharing.


Liz: We attempt to use it as a lot as we will. We don’t need it to simply sit in an Excel file on our server, we wish to share this info. We’ve even constructed instructional classes to permit lecturers and college students to faucet into this information and analyze it or create graphs. If they’ll use a neighborhood information set, it simply makes the lesson extra tangible and extra fascinating. So we’ve tried to put it to use in a number of alternative ways in order that it could possibly assist and join as many people as attainable.


Danica: That’s cool. If someone needed to entry these studying supplies, the place may they do this?


Liz: We’ve a faculty packages webpage. On our college packages web page, we now have completely different supplies for elementary schooling, and we now have some center and highschool instructional classes as effectively and we’re frequently including to that. 


After which all the information that we now have is on the market on the Swim Information which is publicly accessible via the web site or the app, after which all of our different water high quality information is on our web site. And all of that information will be downloaded. It’s public, so of us can take it and analyze it how they want. We would like it to be free and we would like it to be on the market.


Danica: That’s wonderful. Thanks a lot. Okay, the final query that we all the time ask everyone: what’s your watershed’s secret?


Liz: Oh, that’s fascinating. I really feel like I’d get a distinct reply from completely different workers or of us who’ve lived right here perhaps longer than I’ve. Our watershed is so large, we now have 11 sub-watersheds throughout the Niagara River watershed so it’s very huge. So from Niagara Falls, a marvel of the world, to old-growth forests. We’ve such a wide range of habitats and waterways with various things. The most effective secret is such an fascinating query. You stumped me.


Danica: That’s okay. We will encourage the readers to go and discover out for themselves. Okay. Effectively, I feel that’s all for now. Thanks a lot for chatting with me.


Liz: Thanks for reaching out. That is cool that you simply’re doing this sequence. It’ll be fascinating to see what different keepers and organizations are as much as. 


To be taught extra about Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper and its initiatives, go to its web site at https://bnwaterkeeper.org/

Author: Samuel Martinez