Problem Solving Using Water Monitoring

Guest blog post by Mike Brunelle, CGCS, Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, NJ

As a property that is pinched between two major highways in the NY/NJ metropolitan area, we constantly see expected and unexpected things show up in our bodies of water carried by surface water runoff. Our ponds were experiencing an algal build up and blooms in the warm months and we wanted to know – were we causing the problem or was it originating off site? Therefore, we began testing our surface waters to quantify the nutrient load as it entered and departed our property to answer the question.

Around the same time, we began experiencing odor problems from low lying areas that acted as collection points for surface runoff, accumulating silt deposits and leaves. But the odor coming from these areas could not be explained by decomposition of organic matter alone. We tested water in these areas and saw spikes in the total nitrogen levels. But as the problem worsened, we decided to also test for fecal coliform. This testing found levels at about 12,000 fecal colonies/100 mL of water tested; this compares to a regulatory requirement of 200 or less fecal colonies/mL allowed for swimming. Therefore, we used our test results to inform the neighboring town north of the property that the issue was coming from upstream and not originating from our property. The town’s resulting inspection of the upstream drainage flowing into the property determined that a concrete drain pipe crossing under the town sewer line had been compromised, resulting in a leak that drained onto our property. This is a case and point of the saying “s**t flows downstream”.