Program aims to revive rivers close to campus


Photo by Brandon Hamilton

Operation Clearwater hires students to test rivers along the Chesapeake Bay for contamination.

Brad Dress , Associate Editor

AACC students help to revive the dying Magothy River every spring and summer.
Dr. Tammy Domanski, an associate professor of biology, heads a program called Operation Clearwater, which she took over five years ago from Sally Hornor, who is president of the Magothy River Association.

Through Operation Clearwater, Domanski hires three to four students a year to work in the summer, testing the vegetation levels of seven rivers, including the Magothy, which flows through the Severna Park, Arnold and Broadneck areas.

The communities near the river, and associations like the MRA that are involved with the restoration of it, hire the students and publish their test results on Operation Clearwater’s website. The organizations can use the results to determine the water quality.

The MRA, founded in 1946, fights to preserve and save the Magothy River, which has suffered losses of underwater grasses that provide oxygen and habitats for life. The MRA has assigned a grade of D to the river for its dwindling level of submerged aquatic vegetation, water clarity and dissolved oxygen, which is lower than what most fish and crabs need to survive.

Domanski said in the process of collecting, students obtain 200 milliliters of water at the site, store it in a cooler to bring to the lab at AACC’s Environmental Center, and then filter the water and collect the materials on it. They incubate it overnight at the lab and analyze it the next day to check for bacteria and fecal contamination.

Jason Burkholder, a sophomore biology major, has worked on the project this semester.

Burkholder said he wants to do “what he can do to help” the rivers.