The Shoal Creek Watershed Improvement Group (SCWIG) will host an old fashioned ice cream social at the Wheaton High School vocational technical building at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Guest speaker Mark Phillips, I-Map Data Systems, LLC, will present the group's new online GIS mapping application, which will be used for water quality education and outreach and watershed management planning.
"Part of our Department of Natural Resources grant asks us to do monthly sampling at six sites along the upper Shoal Creek," said Drew Holt, an environmental quality specialist who assists with the SCWIG project.
Donnie Pierpont, a local environmental health inspector, has volunteered to conduct the water sampling. The tests are performed at a testing lab in Monett, said Holt.
"EPA standards are based on the number of colonies in 100 milliliters of water from the body of water," said Holt. "That is about the volume of a large pill bottle.
"If you have 235 or more colonies of bacteria per 100 milliliters, EPA says that you are above the limit for full body contact," said Holt. "The number of colonies are used to assume that there are other things in the water that in theory are more likely to hurt you."
In order to help community members understand the results from water sampling tests, SCWIG is working with area health departments to create recreational water safety and illness prevention materials.
"We cannot issue advisories," said Holt. "That is a public health issue. We do hope to create a set of brochures and consistent information for health department websites that encourage recreational water users to use their head during and after entering area watersheds."
"We want to remind people to wash their hands if they have been fishing or swimming," said Holt. "We also want people to know that they should stay out of water that is not flowing well. If the water looks murky, don't swim there."
Brochures will offer tips and advice for staying safe on area waterways, illnesses that are caused by pollutants and resources for additional water safety information.
Results from the water sampling will be available through the online computer application.
The new mapping application also pinpoints the area that will be served by SCWIG projects. Previously, the group's cost-share septic repair and replacement project was limited to systems located within one-half mile of Shoal Creek.
"In late May, we received the green light to broaden that back to the original target area," said Holt. "That means nearly any septic system in the upper Shoal Creek Watershed is eligible for the program."
Individuals who attend the event next week will have the opportunity to learn more about SCWIG's septic tank pumping, replacement and repair program and other landowner cost-share programs for soil and water conservation.
Attendees will also be invited to share their ideas for improving and protecting water quality of streams in the Shoal Creek Watershed.
SCWIG focuses its efforts on the upper portion of the Shoal Creek Watershed, which is located between Exeter and Wheaton. Last year, the group developed a watershed management plan that will be used to guide water quality improvements over the next 10 years.
All community members will be invited to attend the ice cream social and learn more about the SCWIG's water quality improvement plans and projects to protect the streams within the upper Shoal Creek Watershed on Aug. 1.
For more information, call Dr. Eugene Miekley, SCWIG Board president, at 417-652-7124, or Tom Vanderhoef, at 417-632-4297.