By VAL VAN METER
The Winchester Star
BOYCE — Tiny stream critters, looking like extras in a miniature horror flick, have a tale to tell.
To the educated eye, they can give clues to the health and cleanliness of flowing streams and rivers.
Gem Bingol of the Piedmont Environmental Council invited half a dozen Clarke County residents to become detectives panning for those clues in Spout Run, during a meeting Wednesday at the Boyce Volunteer Fire Company social hall.
Bingol is setting up teams to begin a monitoring program as part of the effort to clean up Spout Run, which has been declared an impaired waterway by the state.
A number of groups and organizations have joined forces to clean up the stream.
Bingol said the new monitoring program, which will survey aquatic organisms at specific sites four times a year, will be used in conjunction with the chemical monitoring of water samples from 12 sites in Clarke.
Aquatic organisms can provide a snapshot of the health of a stream, Bingol said, because some species can only live in clean water, while others have adapted to various levels of pollution.
“They can tell a story about the water quality and the ecological health of the stream overall,” she said.
Monitors use a net to capture organisms at a particular spot on a stream, usually downstream from a riffle, a spot where water gains oxygen by tumbling over rocks.
The volunteers follow a specific procedure, developed by the Virginia Save our Streams organization. They capture organisms, sort them — usually into ice cube trays — and then identify them. The number of each type is noted on a form and experts can interpret the stream’s health through the data.