Clean Drinking Water for Lucketts
In January 2022 Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy received a $41,432 grant from the Tides Foundation, on the recommendation of the Google Data Centers Grants Fund. The grant supported efforts to secure clean drinking water for the Lucketts community. Loudoun Wildlife implemented a one-year comprehensive water quality testing program and public outreach activities to promote awareness of and provide resources for clean drinking water to the community. Read about the project outcomes.
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 Friends of Shenandoah River to conduct initial 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. Learn more about E. coli.
The three major goals of this project are to:
- Determine the extent of E. coli contamination in the Limestone Branch tributary and Clark’s Run in the Lucketts community through the use of bacterial and biological water quality testing.
- Empower the Lucketts community to understand if their drinking water is contaminated and offer solutions.
- Inform the Lucketts community about the extent of E. coli contamination and provide educational resources about well water treatment and maintenance.
How can E. coli in streams affect my drinking water?
Lucketts is located in Loudoun County’s Limestone Overlay District, which reaches just south of Leesburg to the northern border of the County at the Potomac River and stretches about a mile on either side of Route 15. The karst terrain of this district 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.
What is karst terrain?
Karst terrain has underlying levels of carbonate rocks, like limestone, that dissolve over time when exposed to even slightly acidic materials (such as rainwater). This gradual process of underground erosion results in karst features including rock surfaces, sinkholes, and underground drainage systems and aquifers.
Unlike other types of terrain where surface waters slowly filter down through the soil and into groundwater sources, surface waters in karst terrain may move quickly into the groundwater aquifers. This quick movement of surface water into groundwater in karst areas creates the potential for widespread contamination of pollutants into the groundwater system, which people rely on for their drinking water source.
What kinds of water quality testing are being used for this project?
This project will collect and analyze 216 water samples for E. coli assessment at six stream and two wastewater treatment facility 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. Benthic macroinvertebrates are small aquatic animals and insects that live on the bottom of the stream. These “macros” differ in their ability to tolerate pollution and the number and diversity of macros collected at a site can indicate the ecological conditions of that stream segment.
Loudoun Wildlife is grateful to Friends of Shenandoah River for providing the baseline E. coli data for this project.
Where can water quality testing results from this project be found?
The E. coli and benthic macroinvertebrate survey results from this project can be found by visiting the map showing monitoring site locations and clicking on the individual site locations.
For all E. coli results, please know that each reading represents the E. coli level on the day, time and conditions when the water sample was collected at a site. The concentration of E. coli can change based on a variety of factors, including a local or regional rain event that can flush contaminants from the surrounding ground surfaces into a stream.
What do the benthic macroinvertebrate survey numbers mean?
Unlike E. coli results, which indicate specific concentrations at specific points in time, the results of benthic macroinvertebrate surveys indicate the ecological conditions of a stream segment over a much longer period of time and can show the effects of both short and long-term pollution or stressors.
Loudoun Wildlife uses the Rocky Bottom Monitoring protocol developed by Virginia Save Our Streams (VA SOS). This protocol tallies the total number of macroinvertebrate types and uses these tallies to calculate six individual metrics that are then used to calculate a Multimetric Index Score. This Multimetric Index Score ranges from 0 to 12, with a score of 0 to 7 indicating unacceptable ecological conditions, a score of 8 indicating indeterminate ecological conditions, and a score of 9 to 12 indicating acceptable ecological conditions.
Lucketts Community Outreach
Loudoun Wildlife hosted an educational outreach meeting at the Lucketts Community Center on April 19th, 2022. Discussion topics included the extent of E. coli contamination and ecological conditions in local streams, how this contamination could be affecting the quality of local drinking water, and steps that residents can take to ensure they have clean drinking water.
Educational resources about well water testing, disinfection and maintenance, and septic system maintenance can be found on the Resources page.
We would like to recognize and thank the community partners who have helped us with this project. To learn more about our partners, click on the links below.
- DISCOVER: Education
- EXPLORE: Citizen Science
- RESTORE: Habitat Conservation
- PROTECT: Conservation Advocacy
- PRESERVE: JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary
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