A Monitoring Mission for Jenkintown Creek

Emilie Wetzel
Sep 29, 2019

Tacony Creek

By Allison Wray, TTF Intern

Ryan Neuman and summer interns made a splash in Jenkintown Creek in Montgomery County this past summer! In August, the TTF crew and Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust’s Kevin Roth conducted quarterly stream monitoring at restoration locations along Jenkintown Creek, which feeds directly into the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Creek downstream in Philadelphia.

Quarterly monitoring centered around five locations at which TTF and partners have planted rain gardens, installed bioswales, and created riparian buffers. As more of our watershed is paved and developed, stormwater runoff becomes even more of an issue for waterways because there is a lack of impervious surfaces to capture the polluted water. Monitoring helps to determine if the pollution levels in Jenkintown Creek near project sites are stable, improving, or worsening. Since 2014, TTF’s Streamkeepers, including Ryan and Kevin, have conducted more frequent monthly monitoring and observation at Jenkintown Creek sites.

A morning of quarterly monitoring began at Abington Friends School in Jenkintown,  downstream from the headwaters and bordered by riparian buffers on one bank, where TTF used live stakes to plant trees.

Trees are not only valued for their beauty, but they help to filter runoff. Leaf canopies reduce bank erosion caused by falling rain and provides surface area where rain water can evaporate. One study found that a typical medium-sized tree can intercept as much as 2380 gallons of rainfall per year. Although not all the stakes had taken root, the team was amazed to see how many had grown into trees to protect the water quality of Jenkintown Creek.

The water monitoring process for Jenkintown Creek includes recording physical observations, taking a water sample to send for testing to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia, and using an electronic tester to capture data such as dissolved oxygen levels, barometric pressure, water temperature, and pH level. During data recording and sampling at Abington Friends School, the team found plenty of caddisfly larvae under rocks, an indicator species of healthy streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and vernal pools.

The team then moved on to the next two sites at McKinley Elementary School in Elkins Park, walking past the maybe-vernal-pool, where a fallen tree had created a deep section of streambed. The last two monitoring sites were located along the creek behind the Sisters of St. Basil in Jenkintown, where riparian buffers were installed. A riparian buffer is a vegetated area that provides shade and serves as a barrier from stormwater runoff pollutants entering the creek.

Our drinking water relies on the health and cleanliness of our creeks, which is why TTF is so dedicated to these watershed projects. Creeks and the land area near them also provide habitat for fish and wildlife, like the two-line salamander TTF intern Rut spotted at the Sister of St. Basil. While our waterways continue to face threats from increased run-off, development, and pollution — creekside plantings are powerful combatants!

In total, all five monitoring sites displayed stable levels in the categories of data measured, illustrating that TTF’s creekside plantings are doing their job to safeguard our water sources.

This monitoring is made possible by our participation in the Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster, coordinated by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and supported by partners Temple and Villanova universities, with funding through the Delaware River Watershed Initiative of the William Penn Foundation. 

To learn more about monitoring and how you can help, contact Ryan@ttfwatershed.org or 215-7744-1853.

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