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Boaters join scientists to collect water quality data in Burrard Inlet

Fraser Riverkeeper hopes citizen scientists can contribute to clean up efforts in False Creek and other areas around Vancouver

Joao Carlos D’Almeida (left) invites Julie Porter and Alex Fraser from Fraser Riverkeeper onto his boat to collect water samples from False Creek.

Charly Caproff/Contributed

Joao Carlos D’Almeida (left) invites Julie Porter and Alex Fraser from Fraser Riverkeeper onto his boat to collect water samples from False Creek.

A group of scientists are handing out water-testing kits in order to collect more pollution data in Burrard Inlet and some Vancouver boaters are already jumping on board with the idea.

Joao Carlos D’Almeida has owned a boat for 16 years in False Creek and took a few water samples from the harbour Wednesday evening using the kit. The kit, supplied by Fraser Riverkeeper, includes PH and nitrate strips as well as petrifilm (like a paper petridish) that will help scientists track E. coli levels in the water.

“The process itself is very, very simple. One explanation and that’s all it took,” said D’Almeida, one of the directors of a boaters association at Burrard Civic Marina.

He says boaters at the marina – there are about 100 of them – are “very enthusiastic” about the project because water quality in False Creek affects them directly.

“We are primary users of the water. We spend a lot of lives on the water so we are very conscious of it,” he said.

“We offered services of our boats and get them around False Creek and English Bay to get them to deeper water.”

The water-testing kits are part of an effort to give people more ways to contribute to water science, said Alex Fraser, outreach co-ordinator at Fraser Riverkeeper. The advocacy group already has a list of volunteers eager to participate in citizen science and is also partnering with Hollyburn Sailing Club to collect data from the waters near Ambleside Park.

“We have some really amazing volunteers this summer and we’re excited to keep bringing more on. We have lots of room,” said Fraser.

Alex Fraser (left) and Joao Carlos D'Almeida collect a water sample from False Creek.

Charly Caproff/Contributed

Alex Fraser (left) and Joao Carlos D'Almeida collect a water sample from False Creek.

Julie Porter, a water specialist at Fraser Riverkeeper, will analyze and map the data collected this summer to create a water-quality baseline for False Creek and Ambleside Park.

Vancouver Coastal Health already collects E. coli data from those areas but Porter says analyzing other factors like acidity, salinity, temperature, and levels of dissolved oxygen are just as important.

“We hope we can start to make some correlations on what’s happening in the water and where the pollution is coming from,” she said.

“This will help the city [of Vancouver] because they will have more comprehensive data on what is there right now and hopefully ... if they can pin point exactly what kind of pollution is happening and where, they can mitigate that.”

Vancouver city council has asked staff to look into ways of making False Creek swimmable by 2018.

Fraser Riverkeeper also has a data-sharing agreement with B.C.’s Ministry of Environment.

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