Environmental Consulting & Engineering Services - from Concept to Reality

Case Studies


RIDEM Biomonitoring

Benthic-sampling copy

Since 2002, ESS has provided the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) with annual biomonitoring of wadeable streams at hundreds of locations. In 2010, RIDEM also selected ESS to conduct cyanobacteria monitoring in lakes and ponds on an annual basis. These statewide initiatives were developed to identify impaired and threatened waters.


Each year, using a rotating basin approach, ESS samples up to 50 wadeable stream locations in which sampling is focused on selected basins for any given year. As federal requirements evolve over time and local needs change, ESS works with RIDEM to develop and implement appropriate and cost-effective monitoring and assessment approaches.

Technical Studies

ESS assesses habitat, collects water quality data, and samples stream macroinvertebrates at each station. Macroinvertebrate samples are analyzed in-house to provide detailed information on the composition and health of the biological community. Wadeable stream monitoring results are summarized in annual data reports, including an analysis of the stream habitat and biological condition at each location, invasive species observations, and recommendations for future investigation.

ESS also visits a select number of lakes and ponds each year to characterize basic water quality conditions and screen for potentially harmful cyanobacteria blooms. The monitoring results are one element used by the state to determine whether temporary closures of lake and pond public access locations are warranted for the protection of public health.

In addition, ESS conducted a multi-year statistical analysis of the biomonitoring data, provided research support for US EPA’s Atlantic Ecology Division on stream disturbance, and focused investigations to identify sources of impairment for selected streams.

Engineering & Design

ESS designs the stream and cyanobacteria monitoring Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPP) for RIDEM. These QAPPs are reviewed and approved by US EPA to ensure the data collected are of the high quality needed to comply with water body assessment requirements of Sections 303(d) and 305(b) of the Clean Water Act.

Permitting & Compliance

As required for state compliance with Sections 303(d) and 305(b) of the Clean Water Act, ESS’s monitoring work began with statewide wadeable stream biomonitoring. Section 303(d) requires identification of waters that do not meet applicable water quality standards due to insufficient pollution controls. Section 305(b) requires each state to assess the quality of its waters relative to their designated uses.

Outcome & Benefits

After collecting the data, ESS prepares annual reports to summarize the results of the stream biomonitoring and cyanobacteria monitoring programs. These reports are used by RIDEM to track and address a wide variety of water quality issues throughout the state. In addition, the state develops publicly available materials, including biannual Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Reports and reports to the Rhode Island Governor and General Assembly.