The Williams County Soil Conservation District is nearing completion on a two-year project testing the water out at Blacktail Dam near Williston.

Molly Jugovic, Soil Conservation District Manager, said the project began when concerns arose regarding a strong smell coming from Blacktail’s water. With a grant from the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, the Soil Conservation District began taking samples of the water bi-monthly, sending the samples to Bismarck for testing.

Jugovic was joined at Blacktail by Conservation District Chairman Donald O. Anderson and Equipment Manager David Telck on Wednesday morning, hopping aboard Gary Lindey’s pontoon to venture out into the choppy water to gather samples. Jugovic explained that the team tries to take samples from the deepest part of Blacktail, at a depth of between 34 to 36 feet.

“We’re mainly looking at nitrogen and phosphates, seeing if farmland is contributing to it,” Jugovic told the Williston Herald. “Fertilizers, pesticides, any bacteria, anything like old septic sewers or septic systems that might be leaching into the water at some point.”

Jugovic takes water samples from two depths, one meter and ten meters, placing the samples in a cooled container for shipping to the DEQ lab in Bismarck. The Conservation District will continue to take samples twice a month through September, when the project’s sampling period ends.

Jugovic added that the full results may not be available until January or February 2022. Depending on the lab’s findings, she said, if there are issues with the water, it might turn into what is called a Watershed Coordinator Program. Contamination due to agricultural runoff or bacteria due to septic systems would require different steps to help mitigate the impact, Jugovic stated. Jugovic and Anderson also took samples of lake water to run through a special filter, which is also sent to Bismarck to test levels of algae and other filaments.

Current results indicate that water quality at Blacktail Dam is of Fair Quality, according to the 2020 Interim Summary from the DEQ Division of Water Quality.

“From the first results that we’ve gotten from last year, basically we’re right around the state levels. There wasn’t anything super concerning about it.” Jugovic stated.

She added that testing projects such as these help ensure that people using areas such as Blacktail Dam for recreation are out of harm’s way by monitoring levels of algae, which can be potentially deadly to both humans and animals.

Visit https://wmscoscd.com/ to learn more about the Soil Conservation District and the ongoing projects they are involved with.

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