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Group Eight Results and Discussion

Results and Discussion:

Water Contaminant Concentration Tests

Hudson River Sunset Lake Drinking Fountain
Copper (Mg/L) 0 0 0
Nitrate (Mg/L) 5 0 0

Unfortunately, we were unable to deduce anything about the water chemistry from our analysis of the water samples using a spectrometer –much less the concentration of contaminants!  The tests using the aquarium water sampling kits failed to demonstrate that either the Hudson River or Sunset Lake was not potable. The EPA water quality standard for nitrates is 10 mg/L, well below what we saw in the Hudson River. We were surprised to see that the Sunset Lake sample registered no nitrates. The New York government website states that a level of 3 mg/L is expected in any body of water where there is a significant human presence. We suspect this is due to the quality of our testing kit, which is only accurate to 5mg/L. So, does this mean the water in Sunset Lake and the Hudson River is potable? Absolutely not! Though our data does not allow us to conclude our water samples were not potable, we were able to test for only two of the over eighty contaminants listed on the EPA website.

Though we did not find any evidence in our results, our group performed further research to confirm our initial hypothesis that the Hudson River near Poughkeepsie was not potable. We found a USGS report on water quality in the Hudson River Basin that showed lead, chromium, and zinc were found in higher concentrations than deemed safe for drinking water in Hudson River water samples taken from a site near Poughkeepsie. Furthermore, we found a report published by the environmental organization Riverkeeper that showed that over 10% of water samples taken from the Hudson River near Poughkeepsie contained an unacceptable concentration of Enterococcus bacteria.

We were unable to find similar studies about the water quality of Sunset Lake. As stated above, our results do not confirm that the water from Sunset Lake is safe for human consumption. Further testing is needed to determine whether or not the water is potable. It is our opinion that future tests should focus on the presence of microorganisms, as they are much easier to detect than small concentrations of chemical contaminants.

Group VIII Conclusion

Our experiment returned different results than we expected.  Initially we were expecting the tests we performed (nitrate and copper tests) to give us sufficient evidence to classify our two water sources—the Hudson River and Sunset Lake—as non-potable.  However, as we discovered, the nitrate and copper levels are sufficiently low to be below the EPA’s cut-off for potability. We were disappointed by this outcome, as we had hoped to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the water sources were dangerous to drink.  In the future, given more time, we would like to have been able to perform tests to determine bacteria levels in the water, such as E. coli or other coli-form bacteria, and the levels of other organisms, such as Giardia. We would expect the levels of these bacteria and organisms to be too high to allow for safe drinking. Perhaps the spectroscopy readings suggest the presence of things other than simply water molecules, as the Hudson River and Sunset Lake had higher absorbance in the violet range of the spectrum than regular drinking water.

This experiment, while perhaps unsuccessful in terms of what we had hoped to discover, is a good example of why one or two negative tests do not necessarily account for all possible contaminants.

In conclusion, despite the negative results from our tests, we would still suggest that you choose not to drink from the Hudson or Sunset Lake.

Group 8 Abstract

We plan to compare water samples from Sunset Lake and the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie. We will compare spectroscopy readings and use a home aquarium water testing kit to determine the two sources’ potability. Should Vassar legend hold true, we expect Sunset Lake to contain more heavy metals due to its proximity to the Mudd chemistry building. We do not expect either water source to be potable.