Students Watching Over Our Streams Health

By Dr. Michael J. and Michael C. Demchik

At the beginning of the 1992-93 school year, acid mine drainage samples, organisms, and photographs were taken back to the Jefferson High School site from a site 150 miles away.The locaton was the Robinon Run stream near Maidsville WV, which is located about 2 miles from Morgantown,WV. Required testing was established where needed, and organism identification,where they existed, took place. At the school site all tests were run and those done on site were compared. The reason for this procedure is that few, if any students, really knew anything about the rest of the coal producing state and some of the problems associated with coal production.

As an outgrowth of this project, a local team study was established for a local stream study based purely on student interest. A proposal for $500 was written in January 1994 to the Eastern Panhandle Soil Conservation Service by their teacher(me) to study three streams over a period ending September 1996. The project was funded in May 1994.

The three streams selected for study were Elk Run,Town Run and Rocky Marsh. All three are located north of the high school and were selected for the following characteristics: ease of access, not far from the school and special features that made them interesting topics for study.

While the three streams project continued, the acid mine drainage problem was cleared up by Consolidated Coal Company producing a clean stream with a biotic index of 12 from 1993-1996. This was accomplished by pumping out the water from the mine to a point that was below the seep. The water was placed in a holding basin where treatment could be applied. The current student group was informed regarding the starting point of the three streams project. During September 1996, the amount of rainfall was significant enough to raise some questions in the minds of students what effect the excessive rain would have on the seep. A trip to the site provided some interesting information.The seep was in full force pushing out water at a high rate of speed, much higher than when the samples were taken in 1993. A weir was constructed by those investigating this site. Tremendous quantities of heavy and light metal precipitates occurred where the water from the seep entered the stream. Analysis of the steam below the seep was a 2, which is classifed as grossly polluted.

While most of the material descibes content, it is important to realize that this program at this point is student driven.

In order for the three streams project to work, volunteer students and a volunteer parent collected the outdoor part and tested the pH, dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide,total dissolved solids, dissolved magnesium and calcium. One gallon samples of water and insects collected in the stream were brought back to the school for study and analysis. The method used to collect the insects was the kicknet method. The individual went into the stream and kicked up the base around plants and rocks and collected the results with a net. The insects were then transferred to the ziploc bag and removed to the school for study. Not all students were able to attend these sessions for a wide variey of reasons, so a videotape was taken and shown to the class members.

Identification of the insects was accomplishd through the use of the Kimmel Sharpe System as modified by M.Demchik,1996. The streams were rated as 12, Town Run, 7, Elk Run, and 5, Rocky Marsh.10 and above is considered a clean stream and 5 to 7 moderately polluted. Basically, these were the same readings that these streams received on each of three separate sampling periods. The pH was 8.0, dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide were at reasonable levels. The dissolved solids were far in excess for that of hard water, probably better than twice as much. slica test were as expected while the nitrates and phosphates were at o ppm. In all cases the E.coli test was negative. The testing procedure was using a lactose broth medium with a little indicator. If the sample turned yellow or orange, it indicated that E.coli was present. In none of the samples did the E. coli test prove positive. The results on the three different time frame testing was basically the same for each site.

The students decided that they would like to study why the streams got the way they did. This meant the watershed would have to be studied. Acid rain and acid snow were the next topics on line for study. The results of the acid rain study are submitted under separate cover and the acid snow study will be accomplished in February, 1997 under a small grant from the West Virginia Education Fund.

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