1999 Progress Report: Enhancement of Environmental Communication in the Lower Great Miami River Basin: A Pilot Demonstration

EPA Grant Number: R827091
Title: Enhancement of Environmental Communication in the Lower Great Miami River Basin: A Pilot Demonstration
Investigators: Hammond, Scott A.
Institution: Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission , United States Geological Survey [USGS] , Wright State University - Main Campus
Current Institution: Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: November 1, 1998 through October 31, 2000 (Extended to August 28, 2002)
Project Period Covered by this Report: November 1, 1998 through October 31, 1999
Project Amount: $475,000
RFA: Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking (EMPACT) (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Sustainability , Air , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Environmental Statistics


This project will increase the accessibility and understanding of environmental information related to the Great Miami River and its tributaries in the Greater Dayton Metropolitan Area through the development and distribution of a multi-media "RIVER INDEX". The RIVER INDEX will provide understandable, timely information to the public regarding river water quality, flow stage, habitat, and ecosystem health. The project partners have a long history of collaboration, including participation in the Lower Great Miami Watershed Enhancement Program.

Progress Summary:

All six of the automated monitoring stations have been established, and equipped to collect water quality data for the Miami Valley River Index (MVRI). Currently, data are being collected at five of the stations and being reviewed for accuracy and consistency. One of the stations (downtown Dayton) is temporarily off-line due to riverfront development/construction activities. The calculation process for the MVRI has been developed and the data management structure has been designed. A number of conceptual graphics have been developed to provide an interface for the MVRI. A pre-survey of people's knowledge and perceptions about the rivers was conducted. Several newspaper articles and TV and radio programs have highlighted various aspects of the project. Some static content describing the project has been available on the MVRI Web Site (http://www.riverindex.org) since spring 1999. The final Web page design and site organization is in development. The public launch of the Web Site and MVRI has been revised for spring 2000.

In November 1998, the project partners held a reception to formally announce the EMPACT Award and kick-off the MVRI project. The reception was well attended by state and local representatives from government and business, and project partner affiliates. Following the reception, MVRPC finalized contractual agreements with the project's primary partners, who in turn worked out agreements with other subcontracting partners and collaborators.

Official work on the project began in January 1999. The partners meet monthly, or more often when necessary, to coordinate, plan, and evaluate project development and progress. For coordination and documentation purposes, MVRPC prepares a written summary of each meeting and distributes it to the partners for their review. Details on progress by project component, including problems encountered and evaluations made, are presented below.

Monitoring Component. In early 1999, the Miami Conservancy District (MCD) began installation of the Project's six automated monitoring stations. MCD established monitoring stations at six locations including sites at Taylorsville Dam, downtown Dayton, and Miamisburg on the Great Miami River; Englewood Dam on the Stillwater River; Huffman Dam on the Mad River; and a site along Wolf Creek in west Dayton. Construction and installation at each station took place from February through June. The details of construction and installation varied from site to site. At the Englewood Dam, Miamisburg, Huffman Dam, and Taylorsville Dam sites, existing MCD/U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) gauge houses were used to house the instrumentation. Improvements at these sites included trenching for utilities (a solar panel was installed at Taylorsville), and the installation of intake pipes out into the rivers, sinks, pumps, and monitoring sondes in the houses. At the Downtown Dayton site, the monitoring station was established in a City of Dayton storm sewer pump station building. For the Wolf Creek site, MCD modified and relocated an out-of-use concrete gauge house from a site south of Dayton. At some sites, additional security features were installed to protect against vandalism. By early June, all the necessary construction and equipment installation had taken place at all six of the monitoring stations.

MCD purchased and installed data collection equipment in 1999. Early in the year, a decision was made to install YSI's Data Collection Platforms (DCPs) in the stations to work with YSI, Incorporated, sondes that were already being installed. The six DCPs provide ease of use and maintenance advantages. In general, once a few early bugs in the DCP software were worked out with YSI, the DCPs have performed quite well at both the solar-powered site and the fully powered sites. The most common maintenance issues have centered on losing communication due to electrical surges (lightning strikes). The YSI sondes have probes to measure dissolved oxygen, conductivity, temperature, pH, and turbidity at all six stations. Two stations (Taylorsville and Miamisburg) have ISE probes to measure ammonium, nitrate, and chloride.

During the summer and fall 1999, data were continually collected from the five operational monitoring stations. Like the DCPs, MCD, Washington State University (WSU), and YSI personnel had to work out several early bugs in the monitoring equipment. Most of the data questions have been controlled by following a regular schedule of cleaning the probes and quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) monitoring at the sites, performed by WSU staff. Backup sondes were purchased and swapped into sites to allow for probe cleaning and calibration at the WSU labs.

When the strict calibration schedule is adhered to, the probes provide reliable data. In December, the ISE probes stopped collecting data, after reaching their 6-month life expectancy. As they are the most expensive probes, this could be problematic to long-term sustainability of the monitoring. The ISE probes will be replaced in early 2000 to ensure data collection continues for Year 2.

Information Management Component (CH2M HILL). In January 1999, prior to beginning work on designing the information system, three project participants attended the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) EMPACT Information Management Conference in Washington, DC.

Development of the MVRI calculation began with review of other water quality indices in late 1998. The partners began to identify the most important data parameters to be monitored. Dr. Allen Burton, WSU, established preliminary data parameters and their weights and ranges for the MVRI using local historic data.

Throughout 1999, CH2M Hill developed the databases and analytic routines that will house data and generate the MVRI. Through multiple iterations, the partners revised the list of analytic parameters that will be collected and incorporated into the MVRI. Some parameters were dropped, such as Microtox, due to no variation in the data, and others were replaced, such as fecal coliform replaced by E. coli. The focus of the MVRI shifted from several activity-based indices to four indices based on the river environment. The Overall Index is calculated from a Water Quality Index (WQI) based on water chemistry and environment data, a Flow Index based on river stage, and a Clarity Index based on turbidity. The WQI consists of continuously monitored parameters from the sondes and weekly to seasonal data from manually collected water samples. Other information on river habitat and aesthetics will be collected seasonally or annually, and will be reported on the Web Site but not included in the calculation.

In November 1999, Dr. Burton, presented the MVRI calculation concept to the Scientific Peer Review Panel identified in the project proposal. Response from the panel has been very positive. The panel will be provided with additional information for review as it becomes available.

In April 1999, CH2M HILL launched the MVRI Web Site. Since that time, the site has contained the project fact sheets developed by the partners. Soon after, MCD requested that a new URL address (http://www.miamivalleywater.org) be considered, rather than the established address (http://www.riverindex.org). This idea was proposed in the context of a sustainability issue for MCD as a likely candidate for carrying the MVRI project beyond the grant period. After considerable discussion, the partners agreed to promote both sites, to facilitate the present success of the project as well as its future sustainability.

Since September 1999, CH2M HILL has worked with the partners to plan and develop the Web Site for the project. The partners have decided on an overall graphical design and a site map has been finalized. Partners have been assigned the tasks of providing text content. CH2M HILL also has developed a detailed task schedule with the goal of having the MVRI and Web Site fully operational by spring 2000.

Communication Component (City of Dayton). During the beginning of the study period, the City of Dayton, with assistance from MCD and MVRPC, developed an informational slide show about the MVRI project. During 1999, the project partners presented the slide show to several groups of local officials and citizens. In March and April, the City of Dayton worked with Dayton Government TV (DGTV) in converting the slide show into video format. The video has been shown repeatedly on cable access in the Dayton area. As part of its participation in the Lower Great Miami Watershed Enhancement Program (WEP), the City of Dayton also has taken the lead in designing a watershed awareness sign that will be posted along the river corridors. The MVRI Web Site address is on the signs that will be posted in early 2000.
In early 1999, the City of Dayton worked with Wright State University's Center for Urban and Public Affairs (CUPA) to conduct a telephone survey to gauge the public's knowledge of the area's rivers and their perceptions about them prior to the establishment of the MVRI. A post-survey will be conducted in September 2000, to test for significant differences in the public's awareness and perceptions of the rivers as a result of the MVRI.

Beginning in March 1999, with the permission of the partners, Ms. Sarah Hippensteel, YSI, conducted a case study of the MVRI project as part of graduate studies course. The case study focused on evaluating the effectiveness of aspects of the project's communication component. She met with various river user groups, and conducted individual interviews to assess particular needs with regard to river information and gauge reactions to the graphics and information being developed for the MVRI. Her results have been used by the partners to revise and affirm the project's approach.

Throughout the project, the partners have continued to develop the conceptual graphic(s) that will be used to convey the MVRI to the public. Using input from the partners, MVRPC has generated graphics to capture the MVRI concept as it developed. A current design that captures the location of the project study area and delivers the MVRI will be delivered to a local newspaper for professional editing. The final graphic will be a recognizable object that can be used across print, television, and Internet media.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 5 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

EMPACT, watershed, monitoring, Midwest, EPA Region 5, Ohio, OH, water quality index, outreach., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Environmental Chemistry, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, pesticides, State, Monitoring/Modeling, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecological Indicators, EMPACT, ecological exposure, monitoring, aquatic ecosystem, environmental monitoring, watersheds, community-based approach, monitoring stations, bacteria monitoring, river systems, environmental information, human exposue, time-relevant monitoring, flow stage, Ohio (OH), biomonitoring, recreational water, web site development, community outreach, ecosystem health, water quality

Relevant Websites:

http://www.riverindex.org/ Exit EPA icon

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001
  • Final Report