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How's the water in the Sound?
High-tech buoys will tell you
July 19, 1999

Heading out for a day at the beach or a fishing trip on Long Island Sound? Now you can check the water conditions along the shore before you go, thanks to the efforts of marine scientists at the Avery Point campus.

The team, led by Frank Bohlen, a professor of marine sciences, is placing six high-tech buoys along the Sound and inside several busy harbors.

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The project, called EMPACT (Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking), is funded by a $737,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It's part of a nationwide program designed to assess air and water quality. For now, UConn's project is the only one tracking water quality.

The network of monitors transmit real-time water quality data every 15 minutes via radio transmitters to a public website.

So far, three of the buoys have been deployed and are feeding information to the web page. Two are off New London, the third is in Bridgeport Harbor. Eventually, an additional buoy will be set farther off Bridgeport and two more will be placed off New Haven.

Sensors on the $30,000 buoys monitor a number of key factors that contribute to overall water quality, including: temperature, current speed and direction, dissolved oxygen and salinity.

"EMPACT is fundamentally an education program," says Bohlen. He believes the information from the buoys will eventually increase the public's awareness about a variety of water quality issues.

Maintaining acceptable water quality is essential for preserving the Sound as an economic, recreational and natural resource.

Once the entire system is in place, the data will have many practical uses: Federal, state and local officials will be able to gAugust the effectiveness of coastal zone management and pollution control initiatives.

Marine educators will use the information in developing marine and science curricula for the classroom. And, before embarking on a trip, fishermen will be able to monitor the wind, wave and current conditions.

To see the information from the buoys, check out the website:

Janice Palmer