Don't Drink The Water!!!

This topic submitted by Jenni Taylor, Martine Nicolay, Brett Ruttenberg, Rachel Wray, & Lauren Collins ( at 1:07 pm on 12/7/00. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Cummins

We will be testing various chemicals that live within Western Pond. By measuring their levels, we will determine whether or not it is safe to drink the water of the pond, based upon the EPAís (Environmental Protection Agency) standards of drinking water.


Purpose/Problem: The purpose of this experiment is to, through testing and observation, discover if the water in the Western Pond is safe enough to drink.

Hypothesis: Our hypothesis is that the water in the Western Pond is not safe enough to drink.

What we plan to accomplish: Through this experiment, we hope to gain a better understanding of what constitutes healthy drinking water, as well as learning about the pond and its eco-system. We plan to surprise ourselves into finding out how safe or unsafe the water is. Who knows, maybe the pond water is the Evian of the future!

Relevance, if any. Why is this research interesting? This research is interesting because it involves a human factor. We all drink water every day, so it is interesting to know what we can drink, and what we can not. By performing this experiment, we will learn about the influences of chemicals and bacteria in water upon the body.


What others have done:
* The Effects of Rainfall on the Pollution and Mineral Content of the Western Duck Pond 12.15.99
* A Study of Life on Western Pond 12.10.99
* Evaporation at Western Pond 12.9.99
* A Study in the Behavior of Swans 12.11.98
* Water Quality 9.17.98
* Water Quality on Western 9.9.98
* Final Sediment in the Western Duck Pond 12.17.97

Water Fit to Drink by Carol Keough
-"Our water is fast becoming a national scandal." (p.6)
-"Every city of any size has tested its drinking water and many found it wanting in purity." (p.1)
-"In recent years, most Americans have assumed that if the water in other cities and towns was less pure, chlorine had taken care of the problem before it reached the kitchen tap. Yet, water is not clean and not necessarily safe to drink. While there is relatively little danger of contracting typhoid or cholera, there is a real danger of swallowing mercury, lead, arsenic, vinyl chloride, chloroform, carbon tetra chloride, pesticides, and more- depending on where you live and where your water comes from." (p.2)
-"Some of these pollutants are known to cause cancer in laboratory animals." (p.2)
-"Although chlorine works as a disinfectant, its side-effects are arousing considering alarm. This additive is now known to interact with other elements in water to form carcinogenic compounds." (p.6)
-"If we donít want nicotine in our systems, we can refrain from smoking. If we want to avoid nitrates, we can do without bacon or ham. But we cannot do without water." (p.3)

But Not a Drop to Drink! The Lifesaving Guide to Good Water by Steve Coffel
-Bad water: water that has adverse effects on our health; concentration, toxicity and contaminants in water are influential
-The major causes of bad water: (pp.44, 53)
* Pesticides
* Fertilizers
* Salt
* Acid rain
* Pollution from mining industry and mining

-There is indisputable evidence that hard water has caused significant health problems for some of those consuming it. (p. 57)
-Sources of potential pollution, obviously most numerous in highly developed areas. Larger concentrations of people, cars, businesses and industries simply generate a larger volume and variety of possible pollutants. But there is bad water everywhere

Is Our Water Safe to Drink? By J. Gordon Mllichap
-The EPA sets drinking water standards for all public water systems.
* Primary effects: enforceable
* Secondary standards: federal guidelines regarding the color, taste, and other aesthetic qualities of water and are not enforceable

Biohazards of Drinking Water Treatment Richard A. Larson, Editor
-"The presence of nitrate in groundwater has received renewed attention because the level of nitrate dramatically is increasing. Subsequently the nitrate level in drinking water is increasing, too." (p. 11)
-"Identifying the human health consequences and risks is even more problematic because casual statements are difficult to achieve in human health research." (p. 21)

"25 Years of the Safe Drinking Water Act: History and Trends"
-"The US has one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world, and the quality of our drinking water has improves over the last 25 years." (p. 1)

"EPA- Children and Drinking Water Standards"-
"Actual events of serious drinking water contamination are infrequent and usually short of duration. However, treatment problems or extreme weather events may allow contaminants to enter water supplies. In most situations, contaminants are found at levels that do not pose immediate threats to public health. Microbial contaminants (such as bacteria and viruses) are of special concern because they may cause immediate, or acute, reactions, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Long-term exposure to some contaminants (such as pesticides, minerals, and solvents) at levels above standards may cause gastrointestinal problems, skin irritations, cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, and other chronic health effects. If a public water system obtains water from a highly contaminated river, lake, or ground water well, it may have difficulty treating the water to meet current safety standards. If contamination poses an immediate health threat, water suppliers are required by law to notify customers right away. Any violation of a drinking water standard requires public notice." (United States Environmental Protection Agency, December 1999).

Relatedness to the real world: By doing this experiment, we will develop the ability to test the safety of drinking water. Not only is this useful in determining Western Pond drinking safety, but in a personal situation (i.e. camping). Having the necessary measuring devices, water can be tested for drinking quality. Also, in terms of real estate, a buyer would most often want to purchase land that has higher quality water.


What is your experimental design? Is it statistically sound? We plan to read and understand the EPA standards for safe drinking water, looking at the most significant chemicals and bacteria. We also spoke to Joseph Shacat who told gave suggestions for things to test and will be helping us do these tests. Taking the most influential chemicals, metals, and other elements, we will test the levels of them at the Western Pond in three separate locations within the pond. We will be testing temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen saturation, dissolved oxygen, pH, ammonia, and nitrate. The metals we will be testing for are: Lead, Iron, Manganese, Cadmium, and Nickel. The control group for our testing will be the EPA standards.

The harmful effects of the chemicals which we are testing:
*Cadmium: kidney effects, suspected of causing cancer and high blood pressure
*Lead: kidney and nervous system damage, Cancer group B2
*Nickel: Heart, Liver damage
*Nitrate: Methemogloblinermia

Jenni tests some trash filled water from location: SANDBAR

There is not much room for being biased with this research project. The water either is or is not safe to drink and we donít care either way. To ensure that there is no human error we will be wearing gloves and using sterile tools. We will follow the directions for testing so that we do not contaminate the samples.

Describe important materials and how they will be used: From the natural science department, we plan to make use of the Environmental Monitoring Systems machine. With this machine we will be testing seven spots, five times per spot, over three different non-consecutive days. This machine will be testing the temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen saturation, dissolved oxygen, pH, ammonia, and nitrate. Using the Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (Aalbert) we will be testing each of our samples for these metals: Joseph is doing this with us. To test the nitrates we will be using Environmental Monitoring Systems and we will learn how to use this equipment by working with it with Joseph.

The Environmental Monatoring System in action!

How will we involve the class in our study? We can indeed involve the class. We can take a survey on how safe they believe the Western Pond water is to drink. We will bring in the Environmental Monitoring Systems machine for the class to test for themselves. We will not have the class test the metals because it takes hours for the machine to test the levels of metal content. We will show them the machine however and let them know how it will be used. We will then also have the class come out with us on two of the days we will be testing. We will let them chose which of the two days. We can ensure that the data collected by the students can be trusted because we will be there with them testing. If anything seems off we wonít use in it our experiment. After that, a presentation of our results will be given. If people are willing to taste the pond water . . . all the better and more interesting.

Lauren, Brett, and Rachel test location: ENTRANCE

General Time-Line:
November 10, 2000: take water samples
November 12: teach class
November 28, 2000: test water samples
November 30, 2000: test water samples; compare and analyze data
November 29, 2000: tested for iron concentration level
November 30, 2000: tested for manganese concentration level
December 3, 2000: tested for nickel and cadmium concentration level
December 5, 2000: Present results and conclusions to class


Non Metal Datasheet

Metal Datasheet


Temperature: Overall, temperature was not a factor in the results of our data. However, it is important to note that on November 10, 2000, the weather was significantly warmer than on November 28 & 30, 2000.

Salinity: For six of our seven sample spots, the salinity stayed at a steady plateau for all three of the dates. Although, at the entrance spot, the levels of salinity were significantly higher. This was proportional for all three dates. But it is also important to note that the levels for November 28 & 30, 2000 were considerably higher than on November 10, 2000. This may be in relation to the difference in temperature on these dates.

Dissolved Oxygen: The levels for dissolved oxygen were at similar levels on all dates for all locations. The only exception for this was that on November 28,2000 at location sycamore there was a drop in the dissolved oxygen levels. Our only conclusion for this occurrence is that dissolved oxygen levels change by waves of water and/or temperature. At the time when we were taking this sample at sycamore, there could have been a wave of dissolved oxygen passing by in the water.

pH: Pure water has a pH concentration of 7.000.At the exit location, the water was the most basic, meaning the values were higher. We found that the water in the alcove area was the most acidic, meaning the values were the lowest. On November 10, 2000, the pH level became increasingly acidic between the entrance spot and the alcove spot. The level went from 7.85 to 7.45. Also on this date, there were more noticeable fluctuations than on any other date. The water near the entrance was more basic and the water near the exit was the least basic. We are not exactly sure what the reasoning for this difference is, but it is one of a positive nature because pH is an important limiting factor for aquatic life. If creek water is too acidic or too basic, biochemical processes may be disrupted harming or killing plants and animals. We expected the water to be more basic on November 30 after the abundant precipitation (i.e. acid rain, snow) the night before, but in actuality, there was little change.

NH4: These values were the highest at the entrance spot. On November 30, 2000, the value reached a high 1.457 (at the entrance). However, on November 28, 2000, there was a steady plateau all the way from the entrance until just before the exit. For all three dates, the lowest values were seen at the exit stream. The lowest value recorded was .9, on November 28, 2000. We also found it significant that on November 10, 2000, at the bridge spot, there was an increase in the NH4 levels.

NH3: For this compound, there were no significant high or low values. However, we found it important to note that on November 10, 2000 at the exit, there was a higher than average level found. There didn't seem to be any significant lows or highs of ammonia in any of the spots. The criterion for healthy concentrations in water is dependent on pH and fish species, and there aren't any fish species in the Western pond.

NO3: Our highest peak for this compound was consistently found at the entrance stream to the lake. Its highest peak was on November 10, 2000, reaching 2.8. We determined this to be so because at the entrance stream there was much more plants and leaves than in any other spot. Often, leaves and plants have high concentrations of many compounds, such as NO3. Interestingly, he lowest level of NO3 found was at the exit stream. Its lowest level was 1.45 on November 30, 2000. It is possible that the high levels of November 10, 2000 are due in part to the higher temperature of that day. Something we found surprising with this compound was that we had assumed the highest levels would be in the areas where the swans and ducks are. We thought this because NO3 is one of the many strong components of animal waste, and the entrance stream was one of the locations where the swans and ducks are rarely, if ever, found.

Iron: There were healthy levels of iron except on Nov.10 at the sycamore and bridge locations. The iron concentration levels were unhealthy in only two spots: near the sycamore tree and the bridge. The reasoning for this at the sycamore may be because of the amount of soil in that area. Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the earth's soil, so there is a higher probability of iron getting to the pond at that spot than in other areas. A possible explanation for a higher concentration near the bridge is that the swans are rarely in that area. Iron is a vital oxygen transport mechanism in the blood of all vertebrate and some invertebrate animals, and near the bridge it is not being consumed.

Manganese: The data for Manganese has proven to be extremely inconsistent. There was no real pattern within the data, except for a relative high and a relative low. The common high was at the alcove. The low proved to be very interesting; it was located at the location rocks, but what was most striking was that for each date the level was 0! Also, for November 30, 2000, the data was extremely inconsistent. For literally every spot, the data switched from an extreme high to an extreme low. The levels of manganese were never too high to be unhealthy. The reason that there are several zeros for Manganese levels is that there was an error with the testing of our samples. The vials of water for those tests were not filled completely, therefore the machine was not able to test them

Nickel: For Nickel there was no common high point. However, on November 28, 2000 at location alcove , the level of concentration by far exceeded those of any other location and date. Also, for low points, there was identical data for all three dates at both the rocks and bridge, both of which are in near areas of the pond. Their low was almost at zero, as well. The levels of nickel vary on being unhealthy (over 0.1 mg/L). At the sandbar the levels were always unhealthy every day, the alcove had unhealthy levels on Nov.10 and Nov.28. The bridge spot and the exit had unhealthy levels on Nov.28. The Nickel levels are not of a hazardous nature probably because much of nickel is found in sediment, soil, and rock. It is so strongly attached to dust and soil particles or embedded in minerals that it is not readily taken up by plants and animals and cannot easily affect your health. The alcove had the highest level of nickel for one of the days because this is the area where there is not a lot of plant or animal life. It actually seems to be a dumping ground for trash and feathers. There were even some decomposing cans that may be contributing to the concentration of nickel in that area.

Cadmium: Surprisingly, the results for Cadmium were proportionally the same as for Nickel. Once again, there was no common high point, but there was, on November 28, 2000, an extremely high level of concentration at the alcove. And similarly again, there was identical data for all three dates at both the rocks and bridge, with a low being near to zero. Cadmium in ponds and lakes may be adsorbed-in-sediment and dissolved-in-water so it is therefore an important factor in whether cadmium emitted to waters is or is not available to enter the food chain and affect human health. The levels of cadmium in the pond were not hazardous probably because the source for cadmium is usually direct discharge from industrial operations, and the Western pond is obviously not subject to these conditions.

Some Reflections: In doing this project, we found that things do not always turn out how you may expect them to. We found that despite our successful sample design, we were still not able to adequately analyze our data. It was difficult to find the information that we needed to figure out what exactly the standards for safe drinking water were. However, using the two machines, the Environmental Monitoring System, and the Atomic Absorption Spectometer, was incredibly informative and fun. We learned a lot about how to test the water, and how to use the equipment. We also found that we had to adapt what we were going to test the water for based on the equipment that we had. That was one of the biggest limitations that we had for the project.
We were very thankful for the assistance that we received from Joseph Shacat. He was incredibly helpful in helping us to figure out what to test, and how to test it. We would not have been able to test our samples for the metals had it not been for his help. Some confusion that we did have with Joseph is that he was looking at our project from a different perspective than we were, and then Hays was. He is sort of a chemist, and we really nedeed a lot of data to be able to statistically compare the numbers that we got. We did learn a lot though, about the discrepancies between different scientifical views.
In conclusion, DON'T DRINK THE WATER!!!!


Coffel, Steve. But Not a Drop to Drink. Rawson Associates: New York, 1989.

Keough, Carol. Water Fit to Drink. Rodale Press, Inc.: Emmaus, Pennsylvania,1980.

Larson, Richard A., ed. Biohazards of Drinking Water Treatment. Lewis Publishers, Inc.: Chelsea, Michigan, 1989.

Millichap, J. Gordon. Is Our Water Safe to Drink? PNB Publishers: Chicago, 1995.

United States. Environmental Protection Agency. 25 Years of the Safe Drinking Water Act: History and Trends. Washington: np., 1999.

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