The Red Flag Monitoring partnership is CSI’s newest water monitoring program, beginning in 2010 with the Cayuta-Catatonk Water Watch volunteer group. The goal of this type of monitoring partnership is to establish baseline water quality for parameters related to shale gas wells, specifically “hydrofracking”; and should “hydrofracking” begin in New York, to document whether or not impacts on streams and lakes occur as a result. Red Flag monitoring places a focus on small streams and creeks for which little to no water quality data exists. Red Flag monitoring has the potential to document both catastrophic contamination events such as chemical spills and gradual degradation that could result from small impacts accumulating over a period of months or years.
Red Flag volunteer groups are organized into teams of 2-6 people. Teams monitor fixed locations by collecting samples and performing on-site field measurements. Volunteers must meet a series of quality control requirements including calibrating their equipment, performing duplicate tests, and submitting samples to the CSI lab on a regular basis to ensure accuracy and precision. Volunteers record results and quality control measures on field data sheets and send hard copies to the CSI lab for review. Results that meet quality control requirements are entered into the CSI database.
Training documents, field data sheets and tips for field tests can be found on our Volunteer Resources page.
Red Flag volunteer teams monitor a fixed set of locations once per month and choose their own dates for monitoring. The time commitment involved is 3-4 hours per month depending on the number of sites and team members.
When funding is available, samples are collected for comprehensive certified baseline testing at least once during base flow conditions. A comprehensive stream baseline includes the 5 Red Flag parameters plus a number of other “signature chemicals” associated with waste from shale gas wells: Total dissolved solids, chloride, chemical oxygen demand, turbidity, total suspended solids, barium, strontium, gross alpha radioactivity, gross beta radioactivity and alkalinity. Lab staff collect samples and maintain chain of custody documentation. To sponsor a Red Flag site for comprehensive certified baseline testing, see how to offer your support.
Red Flag volunteers test for five parameters: Temperature, pH, Dissolved Oxygen, Conductivity and Total Hardness. Conductivity and Total Hardness are specifically geared towards picking up impacts from shale gas waste. Conductivity is a measure of water’s ability to conduct electricity and is an excellent indicator for brine waste. Total Hardness is a measure of metals dissolved in water, primarily calcium and magnesium, which are found in extremely high concentrations in flowback fluids from “hydrofracking” operations. pH, Dissolved Oxygen and Temperature are more general water quality parameters that can be affected by a variety of impacts, including shale gas waste.
Currently, CSI’s “Red Flag” volunteer partnerships are monitoring in the the Upper Susquehanna River Basin, the Alleghany River Basin, Mohawk River Watershed, Cayuga Lake Watershed, and the Oswego River watershed. There are over 100 active sites in 12 New York counties. A complete map and list of monitoring locations and test results can be found in our database.
“Cayuta-Catatonk Water Watch (CCWW)”
The Cayuta-Catatonk Water Watch began as the pilot program for Red Flag monitoring and has been monitoring since 2010. CCWW volunteer group monitors the
CCWW volunteer group monitors the Cayuta and Catatonk Creeks and their tributaries.