Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy received a $41,432 grant from the Tides Foundation, on the recommendation of the Google Data Centers Grants Fund. The grant will support efforts to secure clean drinking water for the Lucketts community. Loudoun Wildlife will work in partnership with the Friends of the Shenandoah River (FOSR) to implement a one-year comprehensive water quality testing program and public outreach events to promote awareness of and provide services for clean drinking water to the community.
Loudoun Wildlife first became aware of water quality issues in the area in May 2021 after volunteers conducted two benthic macroinvertebrate stream surveys along a tributary of Limestone Branch that flows through JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary. The results of these surveys indicated poor water quality, which prompted Loudoun Wildlife to reach out to FOSR to conduct bacterial testing. Excessive E. coli bacterial contamination was measured in the lower segments of the stream.
Both Limestone Branch and Clark’s Run in the Lucketts area have been listed as impaired by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality since 2002, due to their high E. coli levels. The karst topography of this area results in the surface water quality directly affecting the groundwater quality. As residents in the Lucketts area source their drinking water from wells supplied by groundwater fed by streams, the quality of these streams affect the quality of their drinking water.
FOSR, which operates an accredited water quality testing lab and monitoring program, will collect 216 water samples for E. coli assessment at six stream and wastewater treatment plant locations along the Clark’s Run and Limestone Branch stream systems over the course of a year. In conjunction with this bacterial testing, certified monitors from Loudoun Wildlife’s Stream Monitoring program will conduct six biological assessments of water quality at three stream sites using benthic macroinvertebrate surveys. The data from all these assessments will be distributed to local, state and federal agencies, and to the general public.
In addition to bacterial and biological water quality assessments, Loudoun Wildlife and the Friends of the Shenandoah River will host a town hall meeting and distribute educational materials regarding drinking water quality to alert local residents to this health concern and provide the opportunity for well water testing. Area residents with contaminated wells will be given technologies and/or resources for clean drinking water, as well as follow up well water testing.
“We are very appreciative of this funding from the Tides Foundation, by the recommendation by the Google Data Centers Grant Fund. This will allow us to work with the Friends of the Shenandoah River to gather water quality data for Clark’s Run and Limestone Branch and improve the safety of drinking water for the residents of the Lucketts area. This collaborative project is a wonderful example of how low-cost volunteer-driven citizen science surveys can be used to identify water quality concerns, leading to more intensive monitoring methods, and resulting in access to clean drinking water,” states Michael Myers, Executive Director of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.