Jul 15, 2020

Alaska Tests Water Quality Data in Harbors

Scientists are gathering water quality data in harbors across Alaska

water quality harbor

Scientists are gathering water quality data in harbors across the state.

Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) planned the project before COVID-19, according to Alaska Public Media.

Patty Brown, a Haines resident with a degree in Natural Resources Management, was contracted to sample water for Alaska’s DEC. She and other freelance scientists are working for DEC’s Ambient Harbor Monitoring project for the next two years. 

There are yearly beach closures in Southeast Alaska due to bacteria in the water, reported Alaska Public Media.

“We’re seizing the moment to get baseline data for years when there’s not cruise ships and not little tour boats,” Brown said. “So we’re finding out what what’s here in spite of them and then next year, they get a measurement of saying ‘Hmm, what’s changed because of them.’”

The agency has been testing local waters for years, but in 2019 the state legislature funded an expanded project. This project involved multiple test sites at 18 harbors along the coast and was a response to community concerns about cruise ship activity. 

Brock Tabor, who manages the project for DEC, said it will be a useful tool in understanding the impacts of cruise ships and shipping traffic, according to Alaska Public Media.

“We went from having a period where we’ve got, you know, over a million visitors and tons of voyages going on to different communities,” said Tabor. “And now we suddenly have this, this pause, essentially in, in cruise ship activity.

He said they’re testing for things associated with wastewater discharges: bacteria, pH, certain dissolved metals, and conductivity ammonia, which is a pollutant that’s often associated with wastewater. They’re also measuring dissolved oxygen and water temperature.

For the next couple of years, Tabor will receive this data harbors across the state that tend to see a lot of cruise ships and activity on the water.

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