INDIANA, UNITED STATES – To raise awareness about the dangers of nitrate in drinking water, a group of high school chemistry students offered water tests in their community.
As part of Water Awareness Day in May 2015, residents were asked to bring small sandwich bags filled with water for testing to Kabelin’s Ace Hardware in Granger. The Penn High School students were assessing water quality, particularly nitrate levels in the local wells.
Nitrates, a common form of nitrogen can be found in well water as a result sewage and fertiliser run-off. This is the case in some parts of Granger where nitrate levels in well water can exceed safe limits. The Environmental Protection Agency considers anything under ten parts per million as safe. However detecting the contaminates is only possible through tests as nitrates are colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
Uncertain about how much interest there was in the community, the students intended to test water from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m, but ended up working for 8 straight hours.
Nathan Petrie, one of the chemistry students involved in the project created a map of the area to plot harmful nitrate levels and identify the trouble spots.
Petrie explained, “So you can sort of see where we have lower levels and then higher levels closer to the county line over here.”
Chemistry teacher, Diane Bowersox, who oversaw the water sample project was intentional that the students be given the opportunity to feel like they can be involved in the community and make some kind of impact.
“We’re always looking for ways to make chemistry learning more relative to students so it doesn’t look like they are just doing a bunch of mathematical manipulations. The kids are taking part in a Water Awareness Day to help the community understand the dangers that nitrates bring.” Diane Bowers
“Since we’re not big enough to completely change an entire community, our main goal is to spread awareness,” added Colin Lucero-Dixon.
As an incentive, participants who had their water tested also had the chance to win a device that can help dilute nitrates through a reverse osmosis system.