Rolland-Warner students from Anne Prill’s, Wyatt Steven’s and Mike Wiltse’s 8th Grade Science Research classes teamed up with the Flint River Watershed Coalition last week to get students testing the Flint River and its tributaries. Students conducted practice tests at Ligon Outdoor Center prior to the actual testing which took place on April 18th at Farmer’s Creek.
Here is what eighth grader Keegan Lieberman said about his experience:
I feel that this experience was an important change from the regular routine. Our groups were able to do quantitative tests for oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorous, as well as other tests Ph levels, temperature, and fecal coliform. All of the test could have been done independently, but doing multiple tests in groups teaches group work and important communication skills that will be used later in life. The data our groups collect makes a difference in the management of our local watershed, making our tests both fun and important.
Once we arrived at the water we were given a brief orientation and got straight to work. My partner and I were to test the water for nitrates, a simple yet time consuming test, consisting of nothing more than mixing 2.5 ml of sample water to an equal volume of a mixed acid solution, followed by adding a 0.1mg scoop of a nitrate reducing agent. After waiting 10 minutes it was time to compare the color of the solution to the color of the chart for our results. On both test the results showed a nitrate content of 1.1 parts per million, a low result but a good one. The total duration of the nitrate test was just over 20 minutes for both tests, leaving enough time to clean up, share results and enjoy the time by the water while other groups finishing their tests and were doing the same thing.
When we compared the results of our test with the other groups that tested for nitrates we found that we all had the same content of 1.1 ppm. Nitrates exist naturally in soil and are usually found in very low concentrations and rarely in high concentrations, but natural sources of nitrates are of no cause for concern when it comes down to aquatic life. Ammonia nitrate and similar compounds are added heavily to fertilizer to increase their effectiveness, good for farmers and gardeners but bad for fish. When rain falls and gardens get watered some of the nutrients get carried away and eventually these will reach the water, this process is known as “eutrophication”. It results in an over growth of algae, preventing sun from reaching into the water and making it hard for oxygen to enter the water, causing many fish to suffocate. High nitrate levels in drinking water can also effect people! High nitrate levels can result in a condition know as blue baby syndrome, were a baby is born blue due to a lack of oxygen in the blood stream. Why is there a lack of oxygen in the blood stream? Nitrates prevent red blood cells from absorbing and carrying oxygen. The good news is the local water levels are very low, meaning so long as we are cautious when, where, and how much fertilizer we use, there will be no problems anytime soon.