Final: Dirty Water!!???

This topic submitted by Matthew Shepherd, Sean Park, Erin Woedl, Nick Stanley ( at 1:25 PM on 12/6/02. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Negron-Ortiz

Natural Systems 1 Fall, 2002 -Western Program-Miami University

Matt Shepherd
Erin Woedl
Nick Stanley
Sean Park

Dirty Water ??!!

Our purpose/problem is to investigate bodies of water in the surrounding Oxford area to see if they are contaminated with fertilizer runoff. If so, has the contaminate level been increasing or diminishing overtime. Our hypothesis is that the bodies of water we will test are contaminated with fertilizer runoff and the level has increased since previous testing.

We decided on this project by many factors. First off all of our group members currently live in Oxford, Ohio and three out of four are from Oxford. This factor played a main role in letting us know what is going on in the local bodies of water. We knew that we wanted to do some kind of testing with water. We did a lot of research to see what kinds of tests we could do. We also knew that fertilizer runoff has been a problem for many of the local bodies of water. We wanted to know if this has been increasing over many years and if so can it be helped. This topic is something important to learn about. It involves a concern about our homeŐs local bodies of water. When discussing this topic we decided on our specific question by thinking about what concerns us as individuals and as a group. This question to us is something that can help people learn about what is in our local bodies of water, what entities are detrimental, and what we can do to help.
We plan to prove that our hypothesis is true. We would also like to aid possible future research with our findings. This research is interesting because it helps us learn what types of entities are in the local bodies of water that surround us. It will enable us to do testing that we have not done in the past or would probably do in the future. It lets us know if the problem has been increasing and why? This research could be very helpful in the time to come.

2. Relevance of the research question;
What others have done:

Water quality testing of the Oxford area has been researched for years as it usually is all over the country. Reasons for testing water stems from a variety of causes. Water quality must be maintained for community health reasons, especially in drinking water, and environmental quality reasons. With areas such asOxford which is surrounded by a large farming community the potential and existence of fertilizer runoff into creeks and other water bodies is a problem. This is not just a potentially a problem here in Oxford but anywhere else that farming and fertilization exists. Only a handful of Natural Systems students have tested the bodies of water that we are testing. This being the case it has been difficult for our research team to locate sources from previous yearŐs labs to obtain test results from previous years that are relevant to the particular bodies of water that we are investigating. The only Natural Systems student generated lab that we have been able to locate that has included in its study a body of water that we plan on investigating for similar contaminates is from 2001 called Water Quality in and Around Miami University and Oxford. More results will be included in the final lab packet after we interview a substantially credible source with access to test results and critical information pertaining to our investigation. One such person will be Dan Reece a member of the EPA and acquaintance to two members in our group . Below is listed the previous Naturals Systems Student Generated Lab that we have located that is relevant to Pfeffer Park Creek which is one of the bodies of water that the Dirty Water??!! research group is investigating. The other websites and articles in the bibliography contain information on fertilizer runoff in different areas of the country, we will be using these tests just as a procedural outline to guide us through our testing process. These groups have either tested to same body of water or have done research that relates to ours. Also listed are the sites of agencies whose websites contain information applicable to our investigation and articles that are similar studies that we have used as guide lines in conducting our research

What will our research be a sign of?

Conducting tests on the levels of nitrates, phosphates, and sulfates in these local bodies of water will be sign of pollution caused by fertilizer runoff. Fertilizers are used on many of the farms surrounding Oxford. These farms often have creeks running through them which carry the chemicals that are washed into them when it rains into the larger bodies of water that we are testing. This pollution as with all pollution is bad and somehow a way must be found to protect the environment yet still protect our crops from infestation by disease or parasite. Our research will indicate whether or not past efforts to raises awareness and counteraction in the process of contributing to the amount of chemicals polluting the water have been affective or not. We want to know how badly these water bodies are polluted, by what means, and hopefully find out if something has been or will be done about this destruction of our home. By conducting this research our team hopes to find that efforts to stop fertilizer runoff water pollution have been affective and people care about how they are harming the environment. Our research will provide data for future researchers to compare results with in future NS testing. Hopefully our results will compel people to take action and help raise awareness of the quality of the water that surrounds them.


Our experimental design is to determine ground water quality of several local bodies of water. Statistically our methodology is sound. We will be searching mainly for traces of fertilizer runoff in the water. We will take ten samples at each location at identical time periods. By this we mean to eliminate a few possible variables such as rainfall and drastic temperature fluctuations. We will compare our results with data from previous experiments in order to determine an increase or decrease in the amount of runoff from past to present. We will use specific testing kits from the Peer Science Center to locate nitrates, phosphates, and sulfates in our water samples. Our samples will be taken consistently from the Pfeffer Park Creek, Four-Mile Creek, Acton Lake, and Talawanda Springs. We will record all our data and show the class all of our methods. Our data collection will be formally presented in charts.
The importance of testing Talawanda Springs is the fact that it is OxfordŐs source for drinking water. This makes its quality level relevant to anyone using OxfordŐs water.

We will also go upstream from Pfeffer Park and test the water running behind the old heavy metals dump. We just want to determine whether there are any remaining traces of heavy metals in the water.
To further ensure that our results are unbiased we will also take our samples from the same areas from each source. We will also conduct some interviews with an employee of the EPA in Cincinnati, Ohio and any other persons with possible knowledge of Oxfords status. We will find out the EPAŐs standards for ground water quality in order to compare our results.

Firstly, We will obtain different types of test kits from the Peer Science Center. With these testing kits, we will go to four different places, Acton Lake, the Pfeffer Park Creek, Four Mile Lake and Talawanda Springs to test the levels of nitrates, phosphates, and sulfates in. Samples will be taken from those four different locations in each body of water and in addition to that, since there is a group in our class experimenting on nitrate and phosphate levels in the Pfeffer Park Creek, we can ask them to share or compare their results with ours.
These collected samples will be evaluated after testing on all the locations. Finally, the samples will tell us if the water is contaminated with fertilizer runoff or not. Then we will compare our data to previous results and determine if the contaminant levels has increased, decreased, or remained the same.

There are also some ways we can involve the class in our experiment. We will bring our samples from each location back to the Peer Science Center and have the class help with the testing. They will learn how to use the testing kits we will use to search for our specific entities.

Data Sheet:

Location Date Nitrate (NO3) Phosphate(pH) Sulfate (SO4)
Action Lake

Pfeffer Park Creek

Four Mile Creek

Western Duck Pond
October 2- October 9: gather testing and recording materials
October 10: Analyze data from Acton Lake
October 17: Analyze data from the Pfeffer Park Creek
October 24: Analyze data from Four Mile Creek
October 31: Analyze data from Talawanda Springs
November 5- November 12: Evaluate data

RESULTS: (see attached graphs and charts)
Phosphates are chemical compounds containing phosphorus. Phosphorus is a non-metallic element which is necessary for life and is found in rock as inorganic phosphates. As water runs over and through rocks it carries off small amounts of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphates. Inorganic phosphates are a plant nutrient and are taken in by plants with water and incorporated into organic phosphate compounds. Animals obtain their essential phosphorus from phosphates in water and plant material. Natural waters have a phosphorus concentration of approximately 0.02 parts per million (ppm) which is a limiting factor for plant growth. On the other hand, large concentrations of this nutrient can accelerate plant growth.
In our experiment, All the locations where we took our samples had 0 phosphate values.

From EPA regulation, if there is more than 10 mg/L of nitrate is found, that means the water is toxic and unpolluted level is when itŐs less than 0.1. Lowest amount of nitrate was found in Talawanda Springs (0.00, .044, .044, 0.00), Acton Lake (.176, .792, .660), had second lowest amount of nitrate, Four Mile Creek (1.056, 1.408, .352) was the third lowest, and the biggest amount of nitrate was found in Pfeffer Park (.616, 1.056, 2.816). Therefore, water in all the locations is polluted but not severe.

Pollution level for sulfate was 500 and we got much less Sulfate values were varied greatly. Not only the locations but also from different spots where we took samples were really different. But it was clear that Talawanda Springs and Pfeffer Park had more sulfate than Acton Lake and Four Mile Creek.
We took paired t- test for nitrate and sulfate to find out if thereŐs significant relation between two. We did not use phosphate since all the values were 0. Using Statview, we got P-value of .0001, which is smaller than P- critical value .05. Thus, nitrate and sulfate is not significant. Furthermore, to show our results more clearly, we used Bar Chart for all the contaminants to show clear over view of where we found most contaminants and the least.

After analyzing all the results, we found out that there were some mistakes on what we planned. Firstly, Our initial hypothesis that the bodies of water we will test are contaminated with fertilizer runoff and the level has increased since previous testing was not able to prove. There were several groups who worked on water in previous years but they all tested different contaminants from what we tested. Moreover, most of previous groups tested in different locations from ours. Hence, there is not any reference to compare our results with others so we could not carry out our hypothesis.

Secondly, since we tested late in the year when agricultural fertilizer is not used as much as early in that year, we could not really get accurate results. Also, it was raining a lot when we sampled so some of the contaminants were washed away as you can see from our results that we found no phosphate, which one other group in our class found some values. They sampled earlier than we did and they found out that the amount of phosphate was decreased though the time.
Therefore to improve our experiment, we think that we would take samples several times to see the difference. Also, we would test some other contaminants such as pH and bacteria so that we can compare some of our results to the precious works. For future research, we chose easy spots for sampling so that the future groups who are interested in water can go and sample water from same spot as we did to compare more easily. Although there were some mistakes in our study, from this study, we learned how to test water samples using different test kits. As a result, it seems like water in Oxford is not as dirty as what we expected.


Title: Processes controlling the episodic stream water
transport of atrazine and other agrichemicals in
Author(s): Hyer, K.E. ; Hornberger, G.M. ; Herman, J.S

Title: Phosphorus transfer in runoff following
application of fertilizer, manure, and sewage sludge
Author(s): Withers, P.J.A. ; Clay, S.D. ; Breeze, V.G.

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