Students Put Our Drinking Water to the Test

Members of Weedsport’s Envirothon Club Head Out Into the Finger Lakes to test Local Water Quality

Students Put Our Drinking Water to the Test

Weedsport students over the last month have been testing the water quality of local lakes that supply Weedsport’s drinking water.

The Weedsport Jr Sr High School Envirothon Club tested different water properties of Seneca and Owasco lakes on Tuesday, Oct. 11th, and Wednesday, Oct. 19th, for water quality. The Owasco and Seneca lakes are the source of drinking water for over 55,000 people in the Central New York area. 

On Oct 11th, the Enviorthon went to Dutch Hollow Brook, Owasco Inlet, and Filmore Glen and tested the physical properties, the water chemistry, the biodiversity of the stream and the watershed (land that drains into the stream).

“The water chemistry tests the students conducted were dissolved oxygen, nitrates, temperature, and alkalinity…The nitrates can indicate any nutrient loading (quantity of nutrients in an ecosystem),” said Enviorthon Coach John Lawler.  “Chloride can be an indication how much salt is being put on the road near the areas we observed and the alkalinity is the ability of a body of water to neutralize acids which gives you the ability to see the resilience of that particular stream. The physical parameters we looked at were … the substrate which is the bottom (of the stream)… We also looked at the volume of flow … we also looked at the amount of eroded banks …” 

On Oct 19th, the Envirothon team went on a boat to test the water chemistry, the plankton, and the bed of the lake of three different areas on Seneca lake. 

“One (test) will be a bottom sample and we will be examining the acidity, the chemistry, the smell while looking for organisms. We will also do water quality samples the same as we did on the streams … we will also do a plankton tow. … which will examine the number of zooplankton and phytoplankton and then compare that to what is found usually at that particular time of year,” said Lawler. 

Weedsport has been testing the water in Seneca and Owasco Lake for the last 30 years. 

“It’s important even at the citizen scientist level … to be aware of how systems operate and how you can make a difference and learn something about the biology of the steam or the quality of the watershed… It keeps students well informed about these ecological concepts and have more impact on your local ecology on a town level,” said Lawler. 

The Envirothon team found that the Owasco streams were healthy but the Seneca lake had too many invasive species including guagua mussels and zebra mussels. Seneca lake also had too much salt in its water. 

The Envirothon team plans to in the future meet with a forester, a wildlife biologist, and fisheries biologist. They also plan to go on a retreat this winter to a cabin at Highland Forest that will be open to the whole school.